A-LEVELS: POST-16 EDUCATION THAT OPENS DOORS
OPINION ARTICLE BY MATT WILLIAMS, NEWLY APPOINTED HEAD, Geneva English School
For the start of the new school year (fortunately with pupils in classrooms rather than learning at home) Geneva English School (GES) has extended its modern premises to cope with the increased demand for places across its secondary school.
I feel privileged and excited to lead this innovative school as its new Head. GES has a wonderful reputation as a warm, welcoming and caring school and has a highly qualified and driven teaching team.
WHAT IS A SUCCESSFUL EDUCATION?
I believe a strong and successful education is based on a range of different factors that ensure students have the demonstrable skills needed to get into top universities and on to fulfilling careers and exciting places of work that align with their passions. A great teaching team and a well designed curriculum are extremely important, but so is a strong pastoral care system, access to great clubs and outdoor activity, plenty of horizon-expanding trips and visits, and the opportunity to take leadership roles in the school and the community.
When all of this is combined under the British curriculum and its A-Level programme you get a post-16 education that opens doors; the qualifications equip students with the confidence and skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing workplace and interconnected global environment.
UNIVERSALLY RECOGNISED QUALIFICATION
A universally recognised qualification, exactly like the IB diploma, A-Levels do not limit students to studying at only UK universities. All universities understand and value A-Levels because of their rigour and focus, typically requiring students to pass three subjects at A-Level, published as letter grades (eg. two As and one B).
Short for ‘Advanced Level Qualifications’, A-Levels are subject-based qualifications that lead to university study, further training or employment. The two-year programme is taken by students usually aged 16 – 19 and offered by schools and colleges both in the UK and internationally. While the programme mostly follows the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) qualification, it is not compulsory to have studied GCSE/IGCSE to enter the A-Level programme. Indeed, at GES we are happy to welcome students with no experience of the British system or GCSEs as long as they score well in our entrance exam.
AT GES, THE A-LEVEL PROGRAMME IS MADE UP OF THE FOLLOWING ELEMENTS:
Contrary to the IB Diploma or a Swiss Maturity or a French Baccalaureate, there are no subject-specific requirements for A-Levels which means a student can study subjects that interest them and in which they are most likely to succeed and achieve very good results. Most students choose four A-Level subjects and study these for two years. We offer a wide range of subjects and are happy to advise on subject combinations when registering. Specialisation in certain areas is possible (but not necessary) so that a future medical student could for example already start to focus on subjects such as Biology, Chemistry and maybe a choice of Physics or Maths. Those students that are not quite sure of what they want to do next can study a broader selection of subjects such as a Science, Humanities and Language. We have extensive experience and can help students with the best pathway for them.
THE EPQ (EXTENDED PROJECT QUALIFICATION)
Is an assessed and moderated project chosen by the student in an area that they enjoy and then they are mentored and guided by a member of staff. Top universities across the world value the EPQ highly and all GES students will be expected to complete this qualification.
Students at GES are expected to achieve either a B2 or C1 language qualification in French or German. Taught curriculum time will ensure that they achieve this by the end of year 13. This is not only a necessary entrance requirement for Swiss universities, we feel this is an important element for an international school located in Switzerland.
DUKE OF EDINBURGH’S INTERNATIONAL AWARD
All students are expected to complete the Gold level of the Duke of Edinburgh Award’s International Award. The award includes outward bound expeditions, physical recreation, skills and voluntary service. As the world’s leading youth achievement award, it is an excellent qualification that offers real breadth and is highly valued across the world.
ADDITIONAL STUDIES, ACTIVITIES, CLUBS AND SOCIETIES
Alongside these core elements of the A-Level programme, additional studies centre around specific interdisciplinary courses for students to acquire skills and attributes such as critical thinking, confidence and creativity. And there will be time for sport and exercise – both individual and team sports – which the school values highly and excels in.
We encourage students to get involved in as many activities as possible. There are numerous lunchtime or after-school clubs and societies to join and a range of opportunities in music or drama productions at the School. Other ways to participate and gain valuable skills are through the Model United Nations, our unique Sports Leaders programme, international competitions, entrepreneurship, work experience, community service, peer mentoring and the School Council or Eco Council.
The atmosphere is that of a warm and respectful community, and everyone plays a part and can feel at home. But there are also high expectations for our students’ success. A student in the A-Level programme is at the same time considered a leader and senior member of that community, mixing with others in their year group but also working with students of all ages. Unlike in some schools or colleges where the oldest pupils (16+) are kept separate, at GES, our oldest students will feel very much part of the whole school, but will still be given privileges not open to the youngest students.
WHY CHOOSE THE A-LEVEL PROGRAMME AT GES
Reasons for choosing the A-Level programme at GES can be numerous and all are critical for the success of our students:
- Fantastic teachers – highly qualified subject specialists who communicate with passion and inspire students.
- Modern teaching methods, which are pupil-centred, active and engaging, encouraging confidence and independence of thought.
- Choice of subjects – a great advantage for pupils with a clear idea of which subjects they need to access and excel in for a chosen university course. Or for pupils who have certain strengths and will benefit from being able to focus on those areas.
- Access to the top universities – many of our teaching staff are graduates from top UK universities and so have insight into preparing students for interviews and pre-admissions tests in these areas.
At GES, we know A-Levels are a great programme to prepare students for university and the world of work. The academic rigour of each course is globally recognised and combined with a choice of subjects and the other components of our A level pathway, students are sure to excel in their chosen areas and lay the groundwork for promising academic and professional careers.
For more information and expression of interests for a Sept 2021 start: GES A-LEVELS