Impington Village College (IVC) is proud to have been an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School for over 25 years. Our international sixth form has students from 27 countries, from Brazil to the United States, and 20 different first languages, including Korean, Norwegian and Tagalog. We believe that the IB Diploma (IBDP) and Careers Programme (IBCP) provide a wonderful curriculum framework for our students to develop into inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people, able to create a better and more peaceful world, as set out in the IB mission statement (International Baccalaureate, 2019).
The central components of the IB learner profile – the extended essay, theory of knowledge study and creativity, activity and service (CAS) elements – encompass a curriculum structure with tremendous breadth and detail. Tom Sherrington, in his book The Learning Rainforest, praised the values-driven intent of the IB and how these values should translate into a whole-school context (Sherrington, 2017).
In an attempt to ensure that the benefit of these values and experiences was felt by all students at IVC, our vice principal challenged us to create a model of CAS for Years 7 to 13 to take place every Wednesday afternoon. This CAS for all should incorporate a wonderful mix of experiences to challenge students, ignite their enthusiasm for activities they have not had the chance to participate in and provide the opportunity to develop student service in the local community.
We saw the huge potential resource that our sixth formers could represent for our younger students, and we were looking for ways to build on our work on supporting student mental health and wellbeing – the impact of the pressures on students, with exams, the new GCSEs and the popularity of social media, has been well publicised recently (Johnson and Crenna-Jennings, 2018; NHS, 2018; ASCL, 2018; Frith, 2016; NAHT, 2014; Weare, 2015).
We created a rationale paper, designated two periods in our fortnightly timetable and proposed a change to the times of the college day on a Wednesday to create a Period 5 that was one hour and 20 minutes long. We then asked the staff to express an interest in any experiences that they would like to offer – this would come within their teaching allocation, as increasing the workload of teachers to support mental health would not be a popular decision. What came back amazed us and made it clear that the staff supported the setting up of iCAS (Impington Creativity, Activity and Service) and that it was something we needed to make happen.
The below table provides a summary of some of the subjects we offer in each of the three strands of Creativity, Activity and Service.
|Robotics||Running||Primary school placement|
|Manga art||Swimming||Elderly volunteering|
|Calligraphy||Yoga||ICT help clinic|
We set aside a budget of £3,000 for the resourcing of iCAS and gave the staff a planning template to structure their sessions. We made it clear that whilst we expected the sessions to be a fantastic learning experience for all, it was not a session that would be subject to the restrictions of programmes of study or syllabus content – we wanted staff to share their passion for a subject with students and raise awareness of a huge range of experiences for students to take part in, in the hope of finding something that they develop a lifelong interest in.
As a college of around 1,300 students we knew that in order to create group sizes of approximately 20 we would need 65 different sessions each term – although some groups could exceed 20. For example, we currently send over 70 students to work with our feeder schools in the local area and have a computing help clinic at the local church café with six students, for community members to seek support with their computing queries.
The thought of encouraging 1,300 students to make nine option choices, one main and two reserves, would be more than enough to put off the most ardent supporter of enrichment, but the SIMS Options Online proved to be an effective tool for collecting option choices and producing balanced groups. We created a website as a directory for all the courses on offer, and linked this with the IB learner profile and the success criteria we use to support CAS at sixth form. We wanted to make sure that all students, from Year 7 upwards, understood the role that CAS played within the IB programmes.
So, after seven months of planning, we launched our iCAS for the first day back in September. We certainly experienced challenges, such as a service option being withdrawn the night before the launch, headaches about spaces for activities such as fencing and Aikido, and teaching 1,300 students how to make their choices online. But, for all these challenges, the benefits are clear. We have had superb feedback from local community groups and parents about seeing our students contributing so wonderfully to the activities in the local area. Students have really enjoyed experiencing activities that would normally only be on offer at a fee-paying school and the fact that we built this into their curriculum and it’s not something that is bolted on at the end of a busy day.
One element that we are particularly proud of is watching our Year 7 and 13 students working closely in the same room on the same sort of tasks – it is bringing our community much closer together and really embodies the caring and intellectual understanding that the IB sets out in its mission statement. It has also had tremendous impact in supporting mental health and wellbeing. We were the first school to gain the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools Gold Award for Mental Health in Schools in this area in December, and iCAS played a key role in this success.
We are already planning for iCAS 2.0 for the next academic year, with an increase in funding in 2019/20 due to the successes this year, and we are very excited about the opportunities we can build on. If you would like to hear more about our plans or find out more detail about the logistics of planning such a model, then we would be delighted to share what we can.
Student quotes for use…
“Giving me more experience and a way to release my energy”
“A better understanding of culture and the world”
“It has made me less stressed so I can concentrate on education”
“It has shown me more opportunities for GCSE options”
“I feel that it has given the students the opportunity to understand, enjoy and work on the different activities”
“It’s given me confidence in my creativity and ideas”
“iCAS has contributed to my education by helping me explore my interests, while still being in college and not taking up my own time”
“iCAS is AMAZING, students are having such a good time.”
“As you may or may not know, my daughter goes to a local infants school and when picking her up yesterday I passed a group of parents in the playground discussing how impressed they were with the students doing the community gardening and handing out plants outside the Baptist church.”
“Yesterday I helped out with one of the IT sessions for older people in the community being provided by IVC students each week – such a great initiative and very rewarding for all involved. Some elderly people coming every week and looking forward to it. The classic account/sign-in/activation, etc. woes they were having problems with showed both how much computers can better connect them to the world whilst clearly showing the barriers that can make it seem impossible. The students were great.”
ASCL (2018) New GCSEs have increased stress and anxiety, say 90% of school leaders. ASCL.
Available at: https://www.ascl.org.uk/news-and-views/news_news-detail.new-gcses-have-increased-stress-and-anxiety-say-90-of-school-leaders.html (accessed 26 February 2019).
Frith E (2016) Children and Young People’s Mental Health: Time to Deliver. London: Education Policy Institute. Available at: https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/time-to-deliver-web-1.pdf (accessed 5 July 2018).
International Baccalaureate (2019) Mission. Available at: https://www.ibo.org/about-the-ib/mission/ (accessed 26 February 2019).
Johnson J and Crenna-Jennings W (2018) Prevalence of metal health issues within the student-aged population. Education Policy Institute.
Available at: https://epi.org.uk/publications-and-research/prevalence-of-mental-health-issues-within-the-student-aged-population/ (accessed 26 February 2019).
NAHT (2014) The Link Between Pupil Health and Wellbeing and Attainment: A Briefing for Head Teachers, Governors and Staff in Education Settings. London: Public Health England.
Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/370686/HT_briefing_layoutvFINALvii.pdf (accessed 24 February 2019).
NHS (2018) Mental health of children and young people in England, 2017 (PAS).
Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-england/2017/2017 (accessed 15 January 2019).
Sherrington T (2017) The Learning Rainforest (1st ed). Woodbridge: John Catt Eductional Ltd.
Weare PK (2015) What works in promoting social and emotional well-being and responding to mental health problems in schools? Partnership for Well-being and Mental Health in Schools. Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/assets/ResourceFinder/What-works-in-promoting-social-and-emotional-wellbeing-in-schools-2015.pdf (accessed 23 March 2018).