Why would Sevenoaks, one of the oldest and most prestigious schools in England, choose to adopt the IB Diploma Programme? Our school would surely succeed in marketing itself on tradition alone. However, back in the 1970s, we began to offer the Diploma Programme to selected international students for whom the British A level curriculum wasn’t a good fit. Before long, the attractions of a programme that combined academic rigour with breadth and internationalism led to an increasing number of students opting to participate in the Diploma Programme. By 1999, the Diploma Programme had become the preferred school-leaving qualification, with A levels being phased out altogether from 2006. The Diploma Programme is now securely established as the curriculum of choice in what has become the second-largest sixth form in the English independent sector.
It would, however, be a disservice to the efforts of many individuals to suggest that the transition from British A levels to Diploma Programme at the school was entirely plain sailing. The British A level is a uniquely specialized school-leaving examination that has been in place for more than half a century. Traditionally regarded as an academic gold standard, A levels are a familiar educational landmark for parents who are otherwise often confused by frequent changes of fashion and policy direction in the national educational system. The merits of the Diploma Progamme have gradually became apparent to the wider school community, including parents, with more and more students opting to follow it.