State schools lead the way in uptake of International Baccalaureate


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The Independent Online

Most of the sixth-formers at George Green school, a comprehensive on the Isle of Dogs, are not on tenterhooks like those in the rest of the country.

That is because they are part of a growing trend in inner city secondary schools and are studying for the International Baccalaureate rather than A-levels, the results of which are published on Thursday.

The IB, widely recognised as being harder than A-levels, has traditionally been considered more a qualification for students in independent schools.

But the latest figures show the system is growing – with more than 200 schools in the UK now putting students in for it ahead of A-Levels – and reveal a majority, 122, are state schools.

“It was a big decision for us,” said Kenny Frederick, headteacher of George Green school. “A-levels weren’t doing it for our kids and didn’t prepare them well for university. We wanted something that was a bit broader.”

In that respect, the IB meets many of the Government’s tick boxes – all students study maths and English amongst seven compulsory subjects until 18 and they also have to take a modern foreign language.

At George Green, the range of languages on offer is phenomenal, with Mandarin, Cantonese and Estonian alongside the French and Spanish.

One of the reasons for this is the school’s proximity to Canary Wharf; foreign city workers often enrol their children at George Green so they can get the IB.

“That helps broaden the experience of our kids,” said Mr Frederick. “This is a very insular community and actually elected the first BNP councillor in the country – although that is not the case now.”

There are now 40 George Green pupils taking the IB with an increase expected again next year. The school has received visits from several other inner city schools wanting to follow suit and some of the Government’s academies are also taking it up.

The introduction of the IB has helped improve GCSE performance as students are desperate to get on the course. Four years ago the percentage of pupils getting five top grade A* to C grade passes including maths and English was down at 29 per cent. This year it is expected to reach between 60 and 65 per cent.

The IB has also led to a growing number of its pupils gaining places at the 24 elite Russell Group universities .

University academics welcome the IB because there is no evidence of grade inflation in its results. Since 1990, the UCAS points score of IB students has only gone up by four per cent – compared with a 30 per cent rise in grades for A-level students.

“With the IB you have an internationally recognised exam which has shown comparable results throughout the years,” said a university source. In all, 141 countries world-wide take the IB exam.