The UK’s southeastern county of Kent is now one of the world’s largest International Baccalaureate (IB) school hubs, with the launch of the IB Career-related Programme (CP) project at its schools on Wednesday.

Through the initiative, which has been developed in partnership with Kent County Council, 26 state schools in Kent will now offer the CP.

The CP provides Years 12 – 13 students with academic study and practical hands-on experience through an integrated package consisting of a minimum of two IB Diploma Programme subjects that are studied alongside a career-related study option, such as a Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualification. It is built around a ‘core’ of personal and social development which prepares students for higher education, apprenticeships, or employment, and promotes enterprise and creativity.

The project is built on the success of the county’s CP pilot project, which commenced in 2012, and was found to have significantly improved students’ success rates in deprived areas of Kent – the average pass rate of CP students in participating Kent secondary schools exceeded 93 percent, while two-thirds of last year’s cohort progressed to higher education, many of whom were the first in their families to do so.

Speaking at the project’s official launch, IB’s Director General, Dr. Siva Kumari, said: “The IB believes that an excellent international education that meets or exceeds world standards is not the prerogative of the privileged. It must be provided to as many students as possible, regardless of their circumstances.

“We work with over 5,500 programmes around the world in schools of many kinds — international, local, state and independent — because our programmes can and should be taught at any kind of school, in any country of the world.”

Dr. Kumari went on to say that IB students are inspired to become lifelong learners “who learn to apply their learning to geopolitical, social, and other issues that matter to them and to the world.”

Also speaking at the launch, Roger Gough, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Education, said: “We would like to congratulate all of the schools and Headteachers that are part of this bold, visionary project. The CP brings together all different kinds of schools bridging vocational and academic studies. Thanks to this project, we are now one of the largest hubs of IB schools in the world and this is something that we are extremely proud of.”

At the event, CP alumni who were part of the Kent pilot shared their experiences of the programme and the opportunities it opened for them, while representatives from higher education as well as industry were in attendance to discuss the programme’s potential in addressing the workplace skills gap.

Gough continued: “There is huge scope for employer engagement and hearing from CP alumni today is real testimony to what the programme can do.”

James Redman, a Sevenoaks alumni and now Project Engineer at multinational construction company Laing O’Rourke said: “Pure academic subjects are the bedrock of education, but students also need to develop a set of skills to ensure they are workplace ready so that employers are not dedicating time to upskill students.

“The qualities that the CP develops in its students are personal skills you would normally see on a job description – this is something that has not yet been seen within a curriculum. This programme is developing intellectual freedom in its students; the CP isn’t teaching students what to think but how to think.”

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