Everything you need to know about the International Baccalaureate

Sixth Form life offers endless opportunities and navigating the best path for future outcomes can feel overwhelming. With subject choices often determining future university courses, and future careers, it is worth getting to know what’s on offer before committing to a pathway of learning at aged 16.

Stonyhurst College has held IB World School status since 2012, offering alternative routes to A Levels for pupils ages 16 – 18 years, with two options of IB Programmes, the International Baccalaureate Diploma and the International Baccalaureate Career Related Programme. Ranked in the UK’s top 20 IB Schools and in the top 100 IB schools in the world, pupils thrive in a unique environment, studying a world-class education which enables young people to become all that they can be. This article provides a guide to the IB programmes at Stonyhurst.

What is the IB?

The International Baccalaureate is an internationally recognised qualification, designed to inspire a quest for learning throughout life, and is a qualification which offers a unique way of studying, with the programme designed to promote academic and personal rigour, challenging pupils to excel in their studies and in their personal growth.

Students who attend Stonyhurst are not just considering companies or universities in the UK when they leave. Having an IBDP or IBCP under their belt gives a qualification with international credibility as the IB Diploma is currently offered in more than 130 countries across the globe and is an internationally recognised qualification. The IB programmes are unique qualifications for the 21st century. They are intended to create global citizens, to empower students with the skills and knowledge that they can apply anywhere in the world, for jobs that maybe don’t even exist yet.

Director of IB, Mrs Deborah Kirkby

The IB Diploma is highly regarded by universities worldwide, and is of particular value to pupils who want to apply to US and European universities as well as the full spectrum of UK universities, including Oxbridge and Russell Group.

What IB programmes are on offer?

The Sixth Form at Stonyhurst offers two programmes of study, the International Baccalaureate (IBDP) Diploma or the IB Career Related Programme (IBCP).

 IB Learner Profile

The International Baccalaureate aims to develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalising world. This has great affinity with Stonyhurst's approach to developing the whole individual and creating principled leaders for the future with an international mindset.

The IB was set up to prepare pupils to be one of the world’s top students. It develops individuals academically, intellectually and as a whole person. It also endeavours to develop characteristics which will prepare young people for later life. This profile has great synergy with Stonyhurst’s Jesuit mission of learning.

The International Baccalaureate® aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organisation works with schools, governments and international organisations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

IB Mission Statement.

The pupils in our care are given the individual attention, resources and space in which to grow intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. Stonyhurst pupils are encouraged to involve themselves fully in the opportunities offered to them. Living in a supportive and diverse community, they are helped to develop those qualities of character that will distinguish them in later life as men and women for others. A Jesuit education is a foundation for such a life, an education that nurtures individuality and encourages generosity.

Headmaster, Mr John Browne

Pastoral and social integration with pupils throughout the school

Teachers at Stonyhurst are involved in delivering both the IB and A Level courses at the College. IB Diploma pupils now make up just under one third of Higher Line (Sixth Form). Small classes and exceptionally good teacher pupil relationships enable pupils to learn at their own pace, developing their talents to the full.

IB pupils have the opportunity to integrate fully with those taking A Levels, through the plethora of co-curricular activities, sports, boarding and Theology General (a subject all Higher Line/Sixth Form pupils at Stonyhurst must take).

A broad IB curriculum

Pupils who take the IB Diploma programme relish the fact that they can study a range of subjects rather than narrowing down their choices. The pathway encompasses six academic subjects, designed to produce highly-educated all-rounders. A Levels narrow subjects down to just three subjects, limiting choice and for some providing a challenge when faced with the decision of which university course to take at aged just 16.

The IB Diploma nurtures transferable knowledge acquisition skills and offers a broad curriculum which keeps open career avenues around the world and offers both depth and breadth of academic study. The subject curriculum covers languages, science, humanities and the arts, ensuring students neither need to specialise at just 16 nor restrict their university options. It also provides the advanced depth that is necessary to pursue specific careers, such as medicine or architecture, in three subjects. IB pupils at Stonyhurst often leave with bilingual diplomas.

The IB Career related programme ensures that as well as exploring their passion in their chosen career related study, pupils can develop wider academic skills through their chosen Diploma subjects. They can present to employers and universities alike with the transferable skills from their vocational career related course as well as strong academic credentials.

An individual curriculum

The IB Diploma is a demanding programme which provides a pathway for individuals and their learning styles, which is in keeping with Stonyhurst’s Jesuit ethos of ‘cura personalis’ – development of the whole person.

At Stonyhurst we design a programme of study for each individual child based on their aptitudes and aspirations. A-Levels continue to have an essential place in our Sixth Form provision, but we think it is important to offer a real choice for our pupils. By offering a further two routes through the International Baccalaureate programmes, we are giving them the best choice of foundations before they join the professional world. 

Director of IB, Deborah Kirkby

An energetic and creative life

With exceptional facilities, and an impressive co-curricular programme of over 100 activities to choose from, pupils who take this pathway at Stonyhurst are well supported in their ‘CAS’ (creativity, activity, service) aspect of the IB programme which challenges pupils to show initiative, demonstrate perseverance and develop skills such as problem solving, collaboration and decision making. While academic performance is important, learning and personal growth extends far beyond the classroom at Stonyhurst.

The outcomes

IB Diploma pupils at Stonyhurst have consistently performed above the world average.

Stonyhurst 2020 International Baccalaureate (IB) highlights: 

  • 100% pass rate compared to a world average of 77.8% (IBO, 2019).
  • Our most successful candidate achieved 44 points (out of a maximum of 45 points) placing them in the top 1% of candidates worldwide and equivalent to 4 A* at A-Level.
  • Over one third (38.5%) of pupils achieved 38 or more points, equivalent to 2A*s and 1A at A-Level.
  • As a cohort, the average point score is 36, compared with the worldwide average of 29.9.

Past IB Diploma pupils have gone on to study at a range of prestigious UK universities, including Russell Group, such as Cambridge, Durham, University College, and Bristol, as well as many well-regarding institutions across Europe, the US and Canada. Subjects studied reflect the broad nature of an IB curriculum, and have varied from Medicine, Law and Engineering, to Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Psychology and Creative and Film studies.


I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to study the IB Diploma at Stonyhurst College – the experiences have shaped me for life. I chose the IB Diploma route because it would provide me with lots of options for the future.

Louisa (OS18)

Next steps

The school is recruiting for both IB programmes for September 2021 and there are a few limited places left for the remainder of this academic year. If you would like to discuss the IB programme, please contact our Director of IB, Mrs Deborah Kirkby:

01254 827073


We are delighted to be hosting a number of events for families to learn more about our IB programmes.

Click here to learn more.