Top of the world at Sevenoaks School
Tim Jones, Deputy Head at Sevenoaks School, explains the International Baccalaureate's positive impact on young people
It is our students, with their energetic, unaffected spirit of engagement and enquiry, and their appetite for knowledge and debate that inspires teachers at Sevenoaks School. More than anything, and certainly more than exam results and university places, it is the open-minded, open-ended exchange of thought and enthusiasm, which brings the fizz and sparkle to academic life here. Never before has Sevenoaks School felt more certain of purpose, more relaxed and confident in its direction and priorities and never before has that direction felt more at odds with the wider political scene.
This year our academic reach has broadened and strengthened – we’ve supported a network of 30 local primary schools a stone’s throw from the school gates, and have run a conference on International Baccalaureate (IB) education in Shanghai nearly six thousand miles away. While politicians at home and abroad may advocate a more narrow, provincial view of the world and a distrust of other cultures, the combination of local and global perspectives, which is part of our students’ daily lives bears directly on their education. It stimulates their sense of service to the community, as well as their understanding of the cultural variety and complexity of today’s turbulent geopolitical landscape.
Equally, the UK national education picture appears chaotic. Simultaneous changes to primary, secondary and tertiary education have introduced levels of testing, anxiety and professional disillusionment that we haven’t seen before. By contrast, Sevenoaks School has reduced the level of homework and plans to cut the already modest amount of testing we do so as to free teachers and pupils to teach and to learn. As a consequence of these changes, reading for pleasure has increased in the school and pleasingly, academic results have soared to new heights across the board.
Sevenoaks School’s educational vision remains true to the one embodied in the IB Diploma Programme, with its breadth, balance, outward-looking aspect and its challenge to students and teachers to consider the basis of their beliefs. But what underpins our different outlooks and how can we contribute to the world beyond our school?
Having adopted the IB nearly 40 years ago, we are now one of the world’s leading IB schools, and have one of the largest student cohorts every year. This year, our exam results are the best they’ve ever been and our university success is extraordinary.
Nineteen of our students received the full 45 points in the IB, with a further 32 students attaining 44 points. Nearly 65% of our students achieved over 40 points, particularly staggering on the basis that the world’s average IB score is 29! Our university destinations also do justice to these exam results, with a record number of offers for Oxford and Cambridge universities, and over 20% of our students opting for the world-class US and international colleges, including five students with offers from Stanford University this year. We have also had our best ever year for medicine courses, with all of those who applied receiving an offer to study medicine, and some receiving up to three offers each.
However, despite being incredibly proud of these achievements, they are ultimately not our focus, which remains best expressed in the IB mission statement which aims to: encourage students from across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.