IB Schools and Colleges Association

Looking forward with the IB Virtual Conference Highlights

Looking forward with the IB Virtual Conference Highlights

We are delighted that more than 200 delegates from around the world were able to join us last week for our first virtual conference Looking forward with the IB. In these uncertain and challenging times, it is reassuring to be part of a community of educators who remain passionate about their roles and responsibilities in educating today’s young people and equally committed to helping one another improve their practice and create solutions to help resolve the challenges we currently face within the IB community.

The week began with several insightful webinars from IB schools on delivery and implementation of their respective IB programmes. This included a presentation from David Collins, Head Teacher of the Knole Academy on How the CP transforms learning and teaching, as well as Jane Tipple, Head Teacher of the Oaks Academy Maidstone on First steps with the PYP. Delegates also participated in a SWOT analysis exercise to help conceptualise how schools can continue to market their IB programmes as part of the sessions Growth, retention, and recognition: a discussion around how IB can best support UK schools.

As the week progressed, delegates heard directly from the IB regarding the May 2021 adaptations and participated in a panel discussion with university admissions representatives from the University of Birmingham and the University of Bath regarding the start of this academic year and applications for 2021. Themes of universal concern were also explored through individual sessions on Climate in the IB Curriculum provided by Dr Kim Polgreen from Leadership in Global Change and Student mental health and wellbeing in the Covid-19 era delivered by consultant Dick Moore.

The week concluded with several key note addresses examining how schools have been addressing the challenges and opportunities created by the pandemic and what international education will look like in the post Covid age. We were delighted to be joined by Adrian Kearney, Director of IB World Schools, to reflect on the recent experience of IB world schools and to explore what the future holds for our IB community.

After the conference, we asked the IBSCA Officers to reflect on their experience moderating the conference and to identify their highlights for the week, which we have summarised below.

It has been wonderful to be able to come together despite the current restrictions and to feel and to see that the UK IB community Is stronger than ever. It is well proven that through adversity we find strength, and my chief highlight from this week is the collaborative community that we have witnessed in every one of the sessions. As we look to develop the subject and coordinator communities via IBSCA.learnium I am exceptionally heartened by the openness and willingness to share which really sets IB schools apart. 

Throughout the week we have benefitted from the time and insights of a whole host of experts who have generously shared their experiences and wisdom with us. Aside from classroom practice and Updates from the IB, I particularly enjoyed Dick Moore’s insights into mental health and wellbeing. The key messages from this, the need to be empathetic and the vital roles schools and school leaders have to play resonated with sessions throughout the week and in particular the wise words from the selection of school leaders who spoke with us. 

As we look forward I am heartened by the flexibility of the Association to deliver a wholly virtual conference and the willingness of schools and colleagues to participate so actively in what is still a somewhat mysterious medium for many of us. 

– Richard Markham, Chief Executive Officer, IBSCA


CP Community

It was lovely to meet up with the CP community during the IBSCA virtual conference and indeed to see so many familiar faces. We had a very lively discussion and many ideas and strategies were shared. It was an ideal opportunity for us to interact and serious creativity started to flow. One quote from a participant about having missed some of the previous CP sessions was that she felt she had “FOMO”!

Assessment in the PYP

Being a DP/CP teacher my knowledge of the PYP is very limited. This session is a must for all educators from all different programmes. I could not believe how useful the PYP assessment concepts would be and how they could be transferred for teachers who deliver the other three programmes. It was an engaging session with many useful tips and strategies to use in any classroom.

CP HEI Guidance

This session expertly took us through a very detailed process for enabling CP students to get into the Russell Group Universities. The session focused on Queen Mary, Warwick and Cambridge. It was incredibly interesting and at times inspirational and whether you are DP or CP you will be able to take away many tips and action points.

Martina Hedges – Professional Development Manager, IBSCA


It was a great opportunity to bring together schools, educators and representatives of the IB to reflect on the issues raised this year and to look forward positively. Although the COVID crisis has disrupted our young peoples’ education and brought huge pressures to bear on our schools, the fundamentals of an IB education remain. That is IB schools offer an outstanding education as they bring together the three key elements, of knowledge and understanding, development of skills and development of attitudes, in line with the OECD’s ‘Future of Educations and Skills 2030’ report. Support for what goes in the classroom, ie pedagogy, is fundamental to the development of IB programmes and in the conference we explored a number of themes in this area. It was also clear from Mike Carslaw’s comments in the Headteachers’ session that an IB education remains very attractive to international families who are actively seeking out IB schools.

Inquiry based and conceptual learning in the PYP

This live session as led by Sean Walker from the International School of Paris. Rather like Martina as a former MY/DP teacher the pedagogy employed in the PYP classroom is a bit of a mystery to me but Sean’s session opened my eyes to how the PYP approach to inquiry and concepts could be applied to any age range. Starting with the concrete so that students can literally feel their way into the subject and then extending to the broader concept behind the idea being developed is something that would work just as well in Key Stage 3 or indeed Key Stage 4. Giving students agency to follow their own ideas but making sure that that inquiry is not pointless is critical and by dropping in activities that mould the young learners thinking we ensure that the inquiry is structured. What was also interesting about this session was its international nature. Nothing to be unexpected for the IB you might think but I’ve never been in an IBSCA event where we had participants from not just the UK, not just Europe but also from Saudi Arabia and Argentina. All discussing a common educational philosophy.

Introducing the PYP to a state school

Continuing on the theme of the PYP we also heard from Jane Tipple and Aoife Mehigan form the Oaks Primary Academy in Maidstone. The Oaks is a state primary school in the County of Kent and is part of the Leigh Academies Trust. The Oaks therefore is a very rare beast – a state school in the UK offering the PYP. Jane and Aoife talked about why they had introduced the PYP and some of the key elements for them was collaboration to enhance the learning experience. They made the point that it was not only the pupils that learnt, but that their teachers also had to learn by developing their classroom practice.

Re-engineering Assessment in the MYP

Although not the title of the session the theme of this contribution from Hockerill College, Bishops Stortford, was about how assessment could be made authentic and integrated into the classroom so that it did not look like assessment. A number of examples were described from Science , DT and English but one particular example sticks in my mind is the re-engineering (pun intended) of a typical Year 7 introductory DT project – the construction of a tool tidy out of moulded acrylic. Anyone who has been in a DT lesson in the last 30 years will be familiar with this, but in this session Michelle Butler showed how the whole project could be reimagined to start off with a brief for a need. That brief was to design and build a stress reduction device like a worry ball. Students still produced a piece of moulded acrylic but the process of getting there was entirely different!

University Panel

The transition to university for our Year 13s has been fraught with difficulty this year, whether they have studied IB programmes or A Levels. We were delighted to hear from Mike Nicholson at the University of Bath and Nick Hull at the University of Birmingham on how universities were supporting students who had progressed to their universities this autumn and the measures that had in place to limit COVID spreading. Universities welcome the attributes that IB students have developed in school: independence, flexibility, critical thinking, essay writing, adaptability which allow them to transition successfully to their undergraduate courses.

Peter Fidczuk, IBSCA University Officer, IB Development and Recognition Manager, UK & Ireland