What’s an IB school anyway?! A review on Southbank International


“The best gift you can give to your child is an education.”  My grandfather constantly reminds me of this.  Those words quickly became etched in my mind shortly after I announced my pregnancy with H.

Schools have always been a controversial subject.  Conversations become political and most people have some sort of opinion they’d like thrown in, which can sway our decision on which school to choose.  But ultimately, we all want what is best for our kids.  We want them to grow into happy, confident, well rounded individuals whilst becoming the best version of themselves.  We want their dreams to come true… to go into a profession that they excel in and of course, to succeed.

As parents, there is so much pressure to choose the “right” school.  And with that pressure comes a bout of anxiety.  “Will they be happy?”  “Will they reach their highest potential?”  “Will they be in a good crowd?” etc.  Every single decision we make can literally change the path our child is walking down.

Growing up, school was never something I really enjoyed.  I was unsettled and didn’t fit into friendship groups.  As a result, I ended up taking a lot of my private education for granted whilst failing to recognise the sacrifices my parents made for me.  It is only now, as a mother, that I fully understand this.  If I could rewind the clock, I would do things differently.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard about IB (International Baccalaureate) education but in short its methodology provides emphasis on student’s personal development, whilst focusing on a holistic curriculum that is relevant to issues that arise in everyday life.  The IB Diploma, an alternative to A levels, is recognised as an entrance qualification to higher education degree courses and students have received offers from top universities around the world.

When you hear of IB schools, if you’re anything like me, you just assume that these schools only take students in from abroad but I was wrong.  Sadly, I think so many of us are unaware that their doors are open to everyone.

Southbank International – a co-educational, all inclusive school from age 3-18 years offering three of the IB programmes.  Primary Years programme (PY), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP).  Located in the heart of London, it prides itself as a “myriad of cultures, all of which compliment each other” and after viewing the MYP / DP campus, I could see why.

The very impressive campus is located on Portland Place has a wonderful homely feel to it.  The large windows, high ceilings, intricate decor create a wonderful vibrant atmosphere and I immediately feel at ease when welcomed by staff.

I arrive at the end of break time and teens are gathering by the lockers preparing for their next class.  Their friendly faces greet me as I start my tour around the school.  I immediately notice that students are given the freedom to express themselves by wearing their own clothes to school.

The school is exceptionally up to date with hi-tech equipment including laser cutters, 3D printers and Apple Macs.  Each student is given a Macbook on their first day.
I observe that desks in classrooms are positioned in blocks of 4 with students facing each other (similar to a nursery set up although these kids are 11+).  I quickly question this methodology but am advised that it’s to help create opportunities for pupils to engage with one another, think independently and encourage debate without critique whilst sharing their views.  Pretty genius.  It is also explained that teachers are also able to change the layout of a classroom prior to class depending on the topic they’re teaching.

Whilst classes are mainly taught in English, students also have the choice to study in their native language.  There are currently 17 languages offered which reflects the diverse student body.  The Suzuki Method is a music programme based on the principles of how language is learnt which aids children to build their language skills through a caring environment.

I also learn that each morning pupils have meetings with their advisors for 15 minutes before classes begin.  This is to share any worries they are having or to discuss a plan for the day – something I think is exceptionally beneficial and only wish I had when I was in my teens.

The school offers and endless list of extra-curricular activities which include a creative writers club, math, acting, sports, GIN club (Global Issues Network), Pentathlon and London Exploration Society.

There is an enormous amount of artwork painted by students directly on the walls and I’m instantly moved by their creativity as well as the trust faculty members have on their scholars to do this.

Whilst there is a lack of outdoor space within the Westminster Campus, most PE lessons are held in Regents Park, with some taking place in the sports centre.  Southbank own a local sports centre which allows a space for all campuses to host PE.  Students are transported by coaches.  They also use many local facilities for PE including Regent’s Park, Hampstead Heath, Swiss Cottage, Seymour Leisure Centre.

In conclusion, I am left feeling impressed and wishing that I had only known about Southbank when I was younger – as given the option, I may have chosen to attend a school like this.  Southbank’s philosophy encourages critical thinking, reflection, empathy, problem-solving and creativity which helps students strive for excellence in all aspects of their lives.  H is due to start school in September and whilst I’ve not yet been to visit Southbank PY, it’s definitely a place I’m keen to visit and consider.

For more information on Southbank click here.