Roger Schultz, Head of School from The Alice Smith School, provides an overview of the British Curriculum.
British education has achieved a worldwide reputation for quality and is recognised and respected around the world. What makes a British curriculum education so popular internationally and why is it such a good fit for a child’s education?
With a significant and increasing number of British curriculum schools worldwide, certainly one of the huge benefits is its transferability. Students are able to move seamlessly from country to country or back to the UK and this is appealing to families who live and work abroad. Also, the formal qualifications students receive after completing examinations at age 16 and above are well known internationally, and provide a smooth pathway to post-16 and higher education.
Why Choose a British Curriculum Education
Commonly referred to as the UK curriculum, the National Curriculum for England is a broad and balanced curriculum framework inclusive of all of the major arts, sciences and humanities subjects. This wide and diverse scope for learning is coupled with a systematic and rigorous approach for keeping track of progress and encouraging achievement, all the way from primary school to university level.
The British curriculum has been designed to give students, parents and teachers a clear overview of a child’s progress with their learning at every educational stage, helping them to identify, work towards and achieve their academic goals. It can be adapted to meet the needs of all students through differentiated teaching and learning activities, whatever their interests or ability.
How is the Curriculum Organised Through the School?
The curriculum is divided into Foundation Stage (ages 3 to 5), primary education (ages 5 to 11) and secondary education (ages 11 to 18) leading most typically to A- Level qualifications. Through each Key Stage, progress is monitored and assessed informally and formally, with individual teacher assessments moderated against the National Curriculum Attainment Targets for all subjects.
In Key Stage 4, students follow the (International) General Certificate of Secondary Education (I)GCSE programmes, taking formal examinations set by Examination Boards such as Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) or Pearson Edexcel.
Students typically take courses in the core subject groups of mathematics, science, English language and literature, humanities and modern foreign language, but can choose other subjects from the options choices. They are awarded certificates from the examination boards for the subjects that they successfully complete. Students then take the A- Level exams at the end of Key Stage 5 (Years 12 and 13). Years 12 and 13 are often referred to as Lower and Upper Sixth Form respectively. A-Level courses allow students to pursue in-depth subjects in which they excel, and which focus on the knowledge that will be required in their chosen career.
Beyond Academic Rigour and Achievement
The benefits of a British curriculum education extend well beyond academic rigour and achievement. Learning through the formal curriculum is essential, but not enough in itself. It is also renowned for concerning itself with the development of the whole child, their character and personality and their social and emotional welfare.
Experiences that enhance a child’s growth and personal development through planned wider learning, as well as through the ‘informal’ or ‘hidden’ curriculum aspects of their educational journey add immense value. Young people need to develop their potential to explore and discover the world around them, to think for themselves and form opinions, to relate to others, to develop their bodies through sport and physical education, and to gain experience in taking responsibility.
A British curriculum education encourages students to learn by debating, discussing, questioning and problem-solving, developing their higher order analytical skills. Mastery of subject matter is liberated by independent thought and brought to life through self-confidence, collaboration and creative thinking. Ultimately, this is a curriculum designed to help young people flourish academically and personally with an appropriate skill set to meet the challenges of a changing world.
One of the most essential life skills is developing an understanding of, and a respect for others. This is embraced through nurturing and fostering respect for one another within both a school’s immediate community and beyond this to the wider community and the region. Children are encouraged to identify similarities rather than differences among cultures and to celebrate and respect other people’s beliefs, opinions, and customs. In many schools, this responsibility towards others extends to outreach and charity work.
How Can the Quality of a British Curriculum School be Assured?
Schools offering an English-style national curriculum internationally vary widely in their structure and quality and may or may not be subject to local government oversight. For those schools wishing to distinguish themselves as being of particular quality, there are a number of membership and accreditation processes that can be sought.
To be recognised by the UK Department for Education (DfE), a British School Overseas (BSO) must undergo a voluntary inspection and have an inspection report that shows its performance against all the BSO standards is at least satisfactory. This reflects the standards required for continuing registration as a school in England. The DfE has approved eight inspectorates to inspect schools internationally. Accreditation visits are required every three years to maintain BSO standing.
Support for the BSO programme is also provided by member organisations internationally that also provide a level of accountability through their own quality assurance mechanisms. These organisations are: British Schools in the Middle East (BSME), the Council of British International Schools (COBIS), Federation of British Schools in Asia (FOBISiA), and the National Association of British Schools in Spain (NABSS).
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