Students Turn Their Backs on A-Levels; Teenagers Who Are Making College History Talk about Their Brave Step

Article excerpt

Byline: Education Reporter LUCY WILSON

SWEEPING changes to the British education system announced this week could see a diploma-style qualification brought in for teenagers aged 14 to 18.

The proposals could mean a broader range of subjects being studied, with extra-curricular activities and vocational study counting towards results.

But one Warwickshire college is already offering students an alternative to A-levels. Education Reporter LUCY WILSON finds out more.

A GROUP of Coventry and Warwickshire teenagers have taken the brave step of shunning A-levels to do the International Baccalaureate (IB) instead.

They are the first to take the course at Warwickshire College's site in Warwick New Road, Leamington.

The course was designed in the late 60s to meet the needs of globetrotting teenagers moving between international schools in capital cities. But now a growing number of schools and colleges in the UK are running it as an attractive alternative to A-levels.

Like A-level, the IB is a two-year course which leads to university entry qualification. But unlike at A-level, students study six subjects for the full two years including a science, an arts subject, a foreign language and maths. They must also write a 4,000-word essay, learn about the theory of knowledge and take part in out-of-lesson activities such as sport, performing arts or community work. That means students like Ruth Cross, 16, from Earlsdon, Coventry, who aims for a career in performing arts, can continue to study maths. And students like aspiring doctor Marcus Gill, 16, of Hatton, can still study arts.

The entry qualifications - at least six Bs at GCSE rather than the five A to C grades usually needed for A-level - give an indication of the ability needed to study such a range of academic subjects to a higher level.

But the students who have opted for the course are relishing the challenge.

James Follows, 16, of Hatton, said: "I chose IB because I wanted to do an academic qualification but not A-level. There's more subjects with the IB."

Marcus opted for the IB because it's accepted by many foreign universities and he hopes to live abroad when he's older. He said: "We're going to go down in college history as the first ones to do it. I feel really lucky that they decided to start it this year and not next year which would be too late for me."

Ruth Cross said: "It's a broader education that develops you as a person - it's not just academic.

"It may be more of a challenge to start with because we have to develop a different style of learning. But it will get easier and I think we will be better prepared for university at the end of it. …