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David Ardley is Assistant Head, International Section at Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz in Switzerland, which is introducing Cambridge IGCSE in September 2021.
Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz has been running its own internal curriculum for students age 12 to 16, after which students move onto either the Swiss Matura or an international post-16 programme.
However, we were keen to introduce an externally ratified curriculum into our international section that would provide 14 – 16 year olds with an academic and creative continuum into the post-16 programmes.
We looked at several providers and, after due diligence – contacting other schools and chatting with colleagues – we made the decision to go with Cambridge International and the Cambridge IGCSE. There were several reasons for this.
Firstly, it was important to buy into a programme that was recognised globally by parents and tertiary education as a leader in the field.
Parents, and students, recognise Cambridge International as an established curriculum and examinations provider. The name ‘Cambridge’ also has a strong and proud heritage that ties in with high standards of academic and creative excellence.
Students that graduate from a Cambridge International programme do so with a standard that is also recognised by universities, colleges and the world of work. This is increasingly important as many students globally attain high grades with post-16 study and many universities and employers now look back to students’ attainments earlier in their school careers to get a better understanding of the student. Strong Cambridge IGCSE performance can help students massively as they move forward with further study or transition into the world of work.
Secondly, we wanted a programme that was well set up to support our teachers and students. The pandemic has taught us all many things but having online resources to support students as well as full and integrated continuing professional development for teachers is vital.
The online School Support Hub is a great resource that not only supports established schools, but also offers guidance and support to schools and colleagues venturing into Cambridge IGCSE for the first time. We have teachers who are experienced in Cambridge IGCSE and others who are new to it, so this element was important to us.
Thirdly, Cambridge IGCSE provides us with a broad and established range of subject options that suits our current curriculum needs and future aspirations. We are beginning relatively sedately in terms of our breadth of subject offering but we wanted a provider who could offer us diversity in subject choice as we move forward and develop what we do, allowing us to adapt and grow.
We found joining Cambridge International very straight forward, even though we kick-started the process at the start of a global pandemic. I led on accreditation and was fortunate to work directly with Hervé Marc, Regional Director, Europe, who made the process friendly and informative. Aside from an initial site visit by Hervé early on, the majority of the process was virtual, which was smooth and stress-free. It was thorough (it needs to be) and he asked us questions that made us reflect on what we do well and what we can improve regarding our curriculum provision and planning across budget, human resource, facility and future aspirations as a school.
We are always looking to review and improve what we do, how we provide it and what the longer-term impact is of that choice. Cambridge IGCSE offers a robust lead-in to our established IB Diploma and Career-related post-16 programmes but many top independent schools offer both IB and A-Level curriculums side by side. The Cambridge AICE Diploma curriculum looks innovative and intriguing so it could be something that we look at in the future.
David Ardley is Assistant Head, International Section at Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz.
Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz is a Swiss international boarding school founded in 1904. It has around 200 boarding and 100 day students aged 12 to 18 from over 30 nations. The school philosophy is founded on respect for tradition, combined with innovation. It finds expression in the Spirit of Zuoz, which attaches supreme importance to tolerance, mutual respect, fair play, commitment and life-long learning. Most students speak three or four languages and the academic programmes have an international focus.