ESF Secondary Curriculum

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At secondary level, ESF schools operate a school-designed curriculum with an approach that is broad and balanced leading to a suite of IGCSE and GCSE qualifications. Students study a range of subjects including English, mathematics, science, the humanities, creative and performing arts, design technology and an additional language(s) at an appropriate level.

The two ESF all-through schools, Renaissance College and Discovery College offer the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB MYP). The other five ESF secondary schools are aligning the school curriculum for Years 7 to 9 to the MYP framework.

At post-16, the majority of students in all ESF schools follow the IB Diploma programme. At all levels, the curriculum is differentiated to cater for students’ learning needs. Students are supported to choose the most appropriate pathway for future education or career.

Years 7 to 11

ESF offers two programmes of study, the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB MYP) and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE).

IB Middle Years Programme (MYP)

dc-yearbookfillers-152The two ESF all-through schools, Renaissance College and Discovery College, cater for MYP students in Years 7 to 11. The other five ESF secondary schools are aligning the school curriculum for Years 7 to 9 to the MYP framework.

The MYP prepares students to become active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others and have the capacity to participate in the world around them. Learning focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in and beyond the classroom and encourages students to be critical, creative and reflective thinkers. The MYP is a framework on which to hang a challenging and rigorous curriculum, which provides authentic, real-world connections to the learning in the classroom.

The MYP curriculum

Through the MYP, students develop an understanding of themselves as learners, their emerging sense of self and their role in demonstrating responsible action within their community, both locally and globally. In order to provide a holistic education with breadth and depth of understanding, the MYP offers eight subject groups:

  • Language acquisition
  • Language and literature
  • Individuals and societies
  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Arts
  • Physical and health education
  • Design

The MYP centres around and is underpinned by the following five key components:

  • Teaching and learning in context
  • Conceptual understanding
  • Approaches to teaching and learning
  • Service as action through Community Service
  • Inclusion and learning
MYP projects

As a further means of developing autonomous, self-directed learners, students are given the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through completing a project, which encourages reflection on their learning and outcomes of their work. This is a long-term project, which is embedded within a global context and generates a synthesis of creative and critical thinking and approaches to learning through an in-depth investigation.
Students who complete the MYP in Year 3 or Year 4 complete the community project, enabling them to develop their commitment to service as action within the community. All students who complete the MYP in Year 5 complete the personal project.

MYP projects are student-centred and age-appropriate, and they enable students to engage in practical explorations through a cycle of inquiry, action and reflection.

International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE)

esf_secondary_students_in_design_and_technology_classThe IGCSE is a two year course of study with externally set syllabus with assessment criteria for Years 10 to 11. The five ESF secondary schools design courses to meet these criteria. This includes a range of language courses available in foreign, second and first languages. The examinations are externally set which is similar to the IB Diploma final examination period. Grades are awarded with students typically taking between seven to ten subjects.
Students will also be able to access a range of co-curricular courses in the creative, community service and physical domains. Some of these activities have qualifications associated with them.

Years 12 to 13

IB Diploma

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP) is a course designed for students aged 16 to 19. Students can choose to follow either the full IB Diploma Programme or their choice of individual IB Diploma courses. Widely recognised as the best possible preparation for study at university, the IB DP builds research skills, promotes personal responsibility and encourages independent learning.


The full IB DP core comprises six subjects and the following key components:

  • Theory of Knowledge (ToK)
  • Extended Essay (EE)
  • Creativity, Action and Service (CAS)

sis-ib-lessonStudents can choose one subject from each of the groups below, three at Higher Level (HL) and three at Standard Level (SL).

  • Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature (Language A);
  • Group 2: Language Acquisition (Language B or ab initio), or a second Language A;
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies (Humanities);
  • Group 4: Experimental Sciences;
  • Group 5: Mathematics;
  • Group 6: Arts (or a second Science, or a third language).

From the IB Diploma courses on offer, students may take six subjects or less, and can do three or less at Higher Level. They can also take Theory of Knowledge and do an Extended Essay if they wish. CAS, however, is a compulsory component for all Diploma students.

Core Requirements
Theory of Knowledge (ToK)

This is an interdisciplinary course where students explore the nature of knowledge across all disciplines. Critical thinking is encouraged by questioning assumptions and asking how certain of knowing what we know, The course promotes international mindedness by requiring an understanding of different cultural perspectives.

Extended Essay (EE)

The EE gives students the opportunity to independently investigate a self-directed research paper of individual interest. Through writing this 4,000 word essay, students develop the skills of independent research, including analysis and evaluation which will prepare them well for study at university level.

Creativity, Action and Service (CAS)

As one of the three core elements that students must complete, CAS runs alongside students’ academic subjects. Students become involved in purposeful artistic pursuits, physical activity and community service projects. Fostering awareness of the broader community and life outside of the classroom, students carry out and reflect on challenging activities that have real consequences, thus promoting personal responsibility.


Students are assessed using a variety of methods, including examinations, essays, case studies, oral presentations, fieldwork, laboratory work, investigations and artistic performances. Some assessment tasks are marked externally by the IB, while others are internally assessed by teachers but externally moderated by the IB. All subjects are marked using the IB 1-7 scale, where 7 is the highest and 1 the lowest. Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay in combination are worth 3 points. The maximum score in the IB Diploma is therefore (6 subjects x 7 points) + 3 points = 45 points.

Applied Learning Pathway

is-fashion-designThe Applied Learning Pathway allows students to focus on creative projects and inquiries and reflect on their achievements. Students whose strengths are in applied learning are often practical and goal-oriented. Courses are routed in practical and real-world situations and are made relevant to the world of work. The courses are modular with no external examination element.

ESF schools currently provide Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC ) courses which are recognised by many universities worldwide. Applied Learning Pathway courses can be studied alongside other subjects and provide a varied learning experience for students.

A number of ESF schools are also beginning to develop the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP) to offer opportunities for those students who have a particular career path in mind. The IBCP allows students to specialise and dedicate themselves to a career path that they know they want to pursue. The IBCP encompasses some elements of the IB Diploma Programme within its structure. It also encompasses the IB’s educational philosophy and mission.

Click HERE to learn more about the higher education destinations of ESF Applied Learning Pathway students.