British College of Gavà – IB World School
The British College of Gavà, an IB World School, is a leading international school in Barcelona. Principal, Mr Simon Mower talks to MumAbroad Life about recent significant changes at the school: introducing the International Baccalaureate®, integrating Education for Sustainable Development into the school community and a new state of the art building for secondary students.
An IB World School near Barcelona
Can you tell us something about the history and philosophy of the school and what curriculum does the school follow?
Now in its 6th year, BCG is very much a community school. Each student is treated individually and each family is well known by the school. It is this approach that allows us to provide the very best learning experience for everyone. From Nursery, right through to the Sixth Form our students are nurtured, encouraged and challenged within a safe and caring environment. We have created Pathways for the GCSE and IB students so that they get the very best support and advice when selecting subjects to ensure that they are ready not only to get to the university of their choice but to thrive there. Education for Sustainable Development is a fundamental strand running through our entire curriculum and the school sits on beautiful green grounds.
We are a British School and follow an international version of the British Curriculum from Early Years to Year 9. We then do International GCSEs and from September will be running the IB Diploma Programme.
The primary teaching language is English. What level of English is required for students to be accepted at the school?
A very difficult question to answer as we look at every student on a case by case basis, so age, previous education, other languages spoken etc are all taken into account when deciding whether or not we can offer a place. All students are given an English test as part of the application process. We are able to take students with very low levels of English, although most of our students are already proficient in English as well as other languages. We have a very extensive Support Programme for our students and English as an Additional Language (EAL) is an important part of that. Every student that needs support in their English acquisition receives bespoke tutoring from specialist languages teachers.
BCG is now an IB World School. What is the IB philosophy?
The BCG community represents over 30 different nationalities, languages and cultures and our recent accreditation as an IB World School offers an exciting new pathway for our learners allowing them to thrive holistically and develop excellent breadth and depth of knowledge whilst educating them in core values and international mindedness. At BCG we aim to foster an exciting, meaningful and lifelong passion for learning. Our educational philosophy and approach embrace creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking – goals which align perfectly with the IB philosophy.
We use the IB Learner Profile attributes as a framework for values throughout our school and openly celebrate our students’ efforts to be principled, demonstrate knowledge and curiosity, show kindness or good teamwork. We are proud of our internationally-minded students and through our curriculum and extracurricular activities endeavour to help them become valuable members of our local and global communities.
At what age do students join the IB Diploma Programme and how does the academic programme differ from A levels?
The IB Diploma Programme is for students aged 16-18. It is respected by leading Universities throughout the world and is a benchmark for excellence in education. Unlike A-levels in which students must ‘specialise’, IBDP students study six subjects of their choice (3 subjects at Higher Level and 3 subjects at Standard Level) as well as completing the core subjects – Extended Essay (EE), Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS). The programme allows students to maintain a broad yet rigorous academic pathway whilst encouraging caring action in the community, the pursuit of extracurricular activities and the learning of new skills.
Perhaps the most notable difference between the IB Diploma programme and A-levels lies in this holistic approach to education. Connections between subjects and learning skills are explicitly made, both by students and teachers. The IB flagship course TOK is a reflection on the nature of knowledge itself and through it, students acquire the skills necessary to reflect on themselves as learners and as global citizens, becoming aware of the world and their place in it. This core element of the Diploma Programme, alongside the Extended Essay, a 4000-word independent research project, are widely believed to better prepare students for university study.
What percentage of students go on to study in universities outside of Spain?
Next year will be our first proper cohort of students going off to university. However, we start the university and careers guidance very early and because it is such a thorough programme we already know that about half of our students will leave for international universities, in countries such as Canada, Holland, Ukraine and of course the UK.
The school is situated in a very green open area and a new building for secondary students has recently been completed. To what extent do you think the location of the school combined with modern facilities affects the wellbeing of the students?
As mentioned previously our campus is one of the many strengths of our school. The new secondary building was opened in September and has excellent facilities. Our sports hall is the envy of all that have seen it, we have a gym, specialist science laboratories, a new art department, music and drama facilities and an auditorium. All wonderful places to learn, but we also have a large beautiful green site, a forest school, a vegetable garden and numerous different areas where the children can relax.
So, yes these aspects have a huge part to play in the wellbeing of our students and staff for that matter. This year we introduced meditation and relaxation too and from September it will be a core part of our curriculum throughout the school.
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) aims at increasing the contribution of education to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agreed by United Nations Member States in 2015. How important are these goals in terms of education?
Absolutely. The implementation of Education Sustainable Development (ESD) into our whole school curriculum at the British College of Gavá enables our teaching and learning practices to be built around the Sustainable Development Goals, helping teachers to utilise them as key concepts for learning on a daily basis in their educational delivery. Through adopting this approach it means our students’ learning is not only cohesive, progressive and interconnected, but it also enriches our curriculum with practical learning that will facilitate student development to become proactive and environmentally engaged people – demonstrating what we think are core values for 21st Century learning and beyond.
How is BCG integrating these global goals in the curriculum?
The Global Goals at BCG are integrated on a whole school level, ensuring that all year groups are actively engaging with the GGs in their learning. Due to their holistic nature, the GGs are regularly used for Project Based Learning activities at certain points in the year, assisting students with a vast amount of skill and learning development, including developing research skills, inquiry techniques, critical thinking, mapping data, debating and opinion-based writing to name but a few. More regularly, BCG teachers will utilize the GGs in their lesson activities also to facilitate student engagement from different subject perspectives – for example, GG No.1 – No Poverty was recently focused on in English, Geography and the Sciences as a lesson starter activity to initiate discussion and questioning connected to climate change. By integrating the GGs into our curriculum we therefore at BCG make our learning interdisciplinary between the subjects.
The School offers the Duke of Edinburgh Award. At what age can students work towards this award and do many students take up the challenge?
The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a global framework for non-formal education and learning, which challenges young people to dream big, celebrate their achievements and make a difference in their world. Through developing transferable skills, increasing their fitness levels, cultivating a sense of adventure and volunteering in their community, the Award helps young people to find their purpose, passion and place in the world.
It operates in more than 130 countries and territories, helping to inspire millions of young people. And although the Award’s framework remains the same wherever it is delivered, no two Awards are the same. Instead, each young person designs and creates their own bespoke programme, unique to them. There are currently more than a million young people doing their Award around the world, via hundreds of thousands of youth-focused partners and operators, including schools, youth organisations, examination boards and youth offender institutions.
Founded more than 60 years ago, the Award is available to all 14-24-year olds and equips young people with the skills they need for life regardless of their background, culture, physical ability or interests. On an individual level, this can make a transformational difference to a young person’s life; on a collective basis, it has the power to bring significant change to wider society.
We offer the DofE award at BCG from Year 10 – 13. Introducing our Year 10 students to the Bronze award and then moving onto the Silver in Year 11/12 and with the aim of our IBDP students being in a position to complete their Gold Award in a few years time. Next year we will have 70 students completing the Bronze and Silver Awards.
What do you believe is the key to the school’s success?
Over the last year, in particular, there has been a huge sense of belief from the whole community. We are clear in what we want to achieve and we are making great strides in achieving our goals. Our new mission statement sets out our vision as well as making clear our values. To answer the question – everybody is clear about where we are going and what we need to do to get there. Our students are excited about coming to school and make fantastic contributions to all aspects of their learning.
It really is a wonderful environment in which to learn.
How involved are parents in the school community?
Our parents are critical to our success. We have had to adapt, like all schools, with our parents not being able to be in school as much as we like but we are looking forward to inviting them in again very soon. Our parents care so much and really are extremely supportive of all that we have done over the last year.
How would you describe BCG in 3 words?
Caring, Positive, Dynamic
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