One of UK’s oldest grammar schools adopts the IB
Bristol Grammar School was founded in 1532 and, like so many other of the ancient city grammar schools in the UK, it has been the key academic institution of the city for nearly 500 years. During that history it has produced a winner of the Nobel Prize and the founder of Penguin Books, Sir Allen Lane, and now in the 21st century it is a highly successful independent school, offering an outstanding, broad education to boys and girls aged from 5 to 18.
So, the decision to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma alongside A levels in September 2018 is a significant moment for the school, and for education in the city.
In his final year as Head Master, Rod Mackinnon made the decision because the IB Diploma fits so well with the educational purpose and values of the school: ‘We have a large Sixth Form of 300 students, 70 of whom have joined specifically for our Sixth Form education. Our focus, as a learning community, is to develop students’ self-confidence and understanding in their learning within a broad and rich educational experience for all. That’s exactly what the Diploma will provide. The Diploma’s curriculum also provides an excellent balance between breadth and depth in study and the school is able to offer a wide range of subject choices.’
Mr Mackinnon already had direct personal experience of the Diploma earlier in his career at Bexley Grammar School in Kent, and that experience also contributed to his belief in the Diploma and its benefits. However, he admits that the process of introducing the Diploma took time and careful planning, especially in a school which was already very successful.
‘This was a major, historic move for a school like Bristol Grammar School to introduce a substantive new program of study and it was necessary to spend a good deal of time building capacity within the whole school community, governors, staff, parents to manage significant change.’
‘In particular, we needed to build staff awareness of the IB’s synergy with the school’s core aspirations for learning. In time, they did come to understand that IB could transform rather than just replicate existing provision. Also, the change to IB takes a lot of time and commitment and the staff had to feel that the effort was worth it when there are always other important and unavoidable matters demanding their time and energy. On the other hand, the more the staff learn about IB the more enthusiastic they become about its introduction.’
Mr Mackinnon hopes, and expects, that in five years half of the Sixth Form will be taking the Diploma and that will be his significant legacy to a great school.