ACS International School's Egham campus on the outskirts of London is a popular choice with international students, not least because of its full International Baccalaureate programme – including the IB's vocational Career-related qualification.
Just as you won’t find the UK’s GCSE and A Level qualifications being taught in the classroom, you won’t see many British traditions here either: there are no boarding houses, no traditional dining hall, no homework or ‘prep’ in the lower school, and there is no school uniform. Students are certainly encouraged to take a very global outlook here, whether through the curriculum or by rallying together support students from rural Nepal in their university studies.
This international education is brought home to the Home Counties, to a desirable corner of Surrey, where ACS Egham offers all IB programmes: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Diploma Programme (IBDP), and the Career-related Programme (IBCP). It’s an education that has huge international appeal – the school has 600 students representing 67 nationalities; one in six are British and there is also a high number of American and European students here.
Egham is the only school in the ACS family to offer the full IB continuum; its two other campuses in Greater London offer the IBDP only and the one in Qatar offers the PYP, MYP and DP. While each programme has a standalone framework and curriculum, this all-through school gives students the chance to access a seamless IB education from primary through to the college years. This means that ACS students can reap the benefits of an all-through school: a stable environment for children, no transition from primary to secondary to sixth form; primary students have access to young role models; and secondary students have the responsibility of mentoring younger students.
Dually accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), ACS Egham is led by head of school Jeremy Lewis, who has extensive experience of working in the IB programme worldwide; he works with a team of teachers with an IB background and international schools experience.
ACS Egham was rated Excellent in its most recently available ISI Educational Quality report (2020).
The curriculum at ACS Egham is based on the four IB frameworks: students aged 3 to 11 years follow the PYP, 11 to 16-year-olds move on to the MYP, and students aged 16 – 18 complete the IBDP or IBCP. ACS Egham is one of only six schools in the UK to offer the continuum of PYP, MYP and IBDP; it is also currently the only school in England to offer all IB programmes including the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP). St Leonards School in Scotland is the only other school in the UK to offer all four IB programmes. This makes ACS quite unique in the British private schools’ sector, although there are more than 90 schools in the UK offering the IBDP. Teaching all four IB programmes can be an advantage – and ACS Egham strongly believes the PYP and MYP are the best – and most rigorous – preparation for the tough demands of the IBDP or the IBCP.
The IB PYP, MYP, and DP programmes cover languages, humanities, sciences, maths, the arts, physical health education, and technology. In keeping with the international nature of the IB programmes and the very wide mix of nationalities at ACS Egham, the school has a strong focus on languages. It also offers mother tongue language tuition if the demand is there, and Dutch, German, Spanish, Danish, and Korean are among those to be taken up.
As you’d expect in the PYP, teaching focuses on language, maths, social studies, science, the arts, and physical, social, and personal education. Specialist teachers take French, Spanish, art, music, and PE, and there’s a weekly Forest School session in the school grounds. In Grade 5, the last year of the PYP, students complete a PYP exhibition, which focuses on a real-world issue such as stereotyping.
In the MYP, students study English language literature, modern language (Spanish or Mandarin), maths, humanities, science, the arts, technology, and PE. In Grade 10, students complete a Personal Project, which can be anything from a research essay to an invention.
In the sixth form, students have the choice of the IBDP or the IBCP. The IBDP continues the broad and balanced learning approach to subjects that has been delivered throughout the school, and offers a much broader alternative to the more specialised A Levels.
The IBCP is a vocational alternative to the more academic IBDP, but it is by no means an easier or inferior alternative; it is technically rigorous, and requires both skill and practical knowledge. As part of the IBCP at ACS Egham, students take a BTEC Level 3 National Diploma Award in Business. It can be argued that IBCP students have a definite advantage over their peers as they will develop a unique set of career-readiness skills, attitudes, and perspectives needed to succeed at university and life beyond. The IBCP is a graduation pathway for students who are clear about their ambitions and who have strengths in a particular area; at ACS Egham, this is an ideal pathway for business students.
Don’t expect all lessons to be held in a traditional classroom, although the opportunity to study in a beautiful 19th Century mansion house is not something to be scoffed at. One of the advantages of sending your child to leafy Surrey rather than a major city is the land on which the school is built – and from Forest School throughout the Lower School, to drama, English, science, and even maths lessons being held in the 20 acres of grounds, the school is a firm believer that the outdoors is not just for PE.
For those students with a more creative streak, art, music, and theatre are taught throughout the PYP and MYP, which means that all students continue to learn music and drama up until the end of Grade 9; students can then choose art and theatre courses in the Diploma Programme.
In addition to timetabled PE lessons, students can attend after-school sports clubs, and compete in one of many school sports teams; the school’s dedicated sports centre is well-equipped with a dance studio, fitness suite, basketball, badminton courts and volleyball courts, climbing wall and outdoor traversing wall, and tennis court – but there is no swimming pool, which feels disappointing. For those with a keen interest in competitive sport, ACS Egham is a member of two international sports tournaments, the ISSA (International School Sports Association) and the ISAA (International School Athletics Association),
One of the disadvantages of being a small school can be the lack of numbers to field strong teams in a variety of a sports; it is a problem faced by many, including ACS Egham. However, since 2020, the school has seen an uptake in numbers as students look to sport as an escape from the pressures of Covid-19. It’s interesting to see how this pause in competitive sport, when there’s pressure to win games, has brought more students onto the playing fields.
Jamie Johnson, the school’s athletics director, says:
“We didn’t have a girls’ varsity team for football, now we’ve got 21 girls coming along to training. Again, three years ago we couldn’t raise a third team for High School boys’ football, now we are recruiting another coach because we’re inundated; we’ve got over 60 boys coming along. In our Middle School we’re seeing the same thing.”
ACS Egham’s small cohort of IB students consistently score above the global average. In 2019, the cohort of 52 students sat the IBDP with a 94% pass rate, and the average score was 35 points against the world average of 30. To give these results context, that is equivalent to three and half A* grades at A-Level based on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) tariff system.
With such a strong academic record, it’s not surprising to see that for those students who stay at the school until the college years (and there is said to be a degree of transience within its international student body), two-thirds of ACS students go on to attend universities in the UK.
ACS Egham has a beautifully landscaped 21 acre site dotted with low rise specialist buildings housing sports, science, and arts facilities; there is also a dedicated IB Diploma Centre. At the heart of the campus is a Mansion House, which adds some English charm to this otherwise modern campus.
With plenty of glorious English countryside on its doorstep, ACS Egham is a stunning place to learn. The school also takes full advantage of its proximity to London, whether sending students on drama trips to the West End or visiting any of the major London art galleries.
ACS Egham is a non-selective school, so there are no tough entrance exams to pass. Annual tuition fees range from £11,310 for pre-K through to £26,390 for Grades 11-12.
Students include British families returning from overseas, expats, and local students who are bussed in from as far as Richmond, Hammersmith, and Woking.
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