From the Headmaster
I am delighted you are looking at the IB pages on our website, and I hope you may be considering the IB diploma for Higher Line (the sixth form) at Stonyhurst.
We have taken the strategic decision to introduce the International Baccalaureate diploma programme alongside our existing A level courses because of the very strong correlation between the broad based Jesuit education we offer our students and the ethos and structure of the IB diploma. As set out in our Mission Statement, we are a British Jesuit school with an important international dimension which seeks to prepare young people intellectually, spiritually and emotionally to offer principled leadership in today’s world. We believe that the IB diploma, as an option to be taken by some of our pupils, is a tool to help us achieve those aims more fully.
We also recognise that the UK higher education landscape is changing, and we expect more of our students may consider study at US universities or indeed at those continental European universities which are now teaching degree programmes in English.
The IB is the ideal passport for entry to a US or a European university, as well of course as getting you in to any UK university.
You will find more detail about why we have decided to offer the IB, as well as what the IB diploma involves, by clicking on the relevant tabs further down the IB webpage. Once you have looked at these, you will want to consider whether the IB diploma is right for you (or for your son/daughter).
You will have noted that the IB requires the study of six subjects plus the completion of an extended research-based essay, a Theory of Knowledge paper (study of knowledge and of ways of knowing) and a compulsory co-curricular programme entitled Creativity, Action, Service. It is the completeness of the IB which, in my view, makes it such a tremendous preparation for university study and for the world of work beyond. The IB at Stonyhurst is designed to nurture highly educated all-rounders with an impressive breadth of knowledge, and with the analytical and critical faculties to help them stand up for what they believe to be right. Indeed, so impressed are we by elements of the IB such as the Extended Essay that we have decided to introduce for A level students an equivalent Extended Project Qualification. We have also crafted a Stonyhurst learner profile for all our students, not just those taking the IB, which is based upon the IB learner profile and also takes account of the distinctive Jesuit character of a Stonyhurst education.
I am often asked what sort of student should consider studying the IB and, conversely, who would be better suited to A levels. We have a good number of pupils at the College who would thrive on an IB diploma programme, and I know there are others who will join us from elsewhere at 16+ so they can take the IB at Stonyhurst. Good candidates for the IB are those who want to continue with a broad range of subjects, are reasonably able academically (we ask for at least 5 B grades at GCSE or their equivalent), and are able to work independently (or at least are willing to learn to do so). There is a bit of a myth abroad that IB students have to be extremely bright, but experience shows this is not in fact the case. Some Heads of Departments do tell me the IB papers are a bit harder than A level papers, but others say that A level papers are harder and IB is more straightforward in their subject. For those IB students who find Mathematics challenging, there is Mathematical Studies and students who find languages difficult can take a beginners’ foreign language option. On balance, there is not much in it. Far more important is that those taking the IB are hard-working and well-organised, because the IB diploma programme is full and offers so many opportunities.
Despite my strong advocacy for and commitment to the IB diploma, I recognise it is not for everyone and that many of our students will continue to take A levels, which will be right for them. This will apply particularly to those students who know exactly what they do, and perhaps more importantly what they do not, want to study in Higher Line. That is why we are offering both the IB diploma and A levels.
However, I urge those joining Higher Line at Stonyhurst from September 2013 onwards to consider whether the IB will be right for them. For our high fliers, a high score in the IB diploma could well be the passport to an excellent university. The Director of Admissions at Cambridge, for example, is on record in support of the IB: “because the IB differentiates better than A level; if we are hesitating about making an offer at all, we would be more likely to make an offer to an IB student than to an A level student”. For diligent students with more modest ambitions, who might be aiming for an IB score in the low 30s (or possibly the high 20s), there is plenty of evidence of other good UK universities which welcome IB students very warmly. Finally, given the greater interest we expect from UK sixth formers in US universities and maybe also in European higher education institutions, IB keeps options wide open. Clearly, for our overseas students, especially those from Europe and America, the IB allows you to have all the benefits of a Stonyhurst education but also to have easy access either to a UK university or a university in your own country.