With its blend of an American education with the IB programme – and a strong focus on the arts, media and film – this Greater London school is delivering a global education in the very English setting of a manor estate.
ACS Hillingdon is part of the ACS family which has campuses in Egham (an IB continuum school) and Cobham (which offers IBDP and AP pathways); there is also an international campus in Qatar. While each school has its unique differences, they each have a very international study body: ACS Hillingdon has 620 students of more than 45 nationalities, with nearly half the student body coming from the US.
This is a school that is very proudly not defined by tradition or monoculturalism. 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. Here’s a school where students are encouraged to look at things in a much more global context, whether through the curriculum or by rallying together to support projects such as Medecins Sans Frontieres.
As you’ll find at any ACS school, the head has extensive international schools experience; headteacher Martin Hall has previously worked at schools in Zurich and Tanzania, and he leads a very international faculty.
ACS Hillingdon was rated Excellent in its 2011 ISI inspection, and inspectors found that students are “systematic, creative and logical thinkers, especially in the Middle and High Schools”.
While the school follows the American system with an Early Years, Lower School, Middle School, and High School, an education at ACS is not prescribed by the rules of any one curriculum. Instead, it follows a very cross-curricular, inquiry-led path where students engage in plenty of hands-on learning. ISI inspectors said that the “curriculum is tailored imaginatively to meet the needs of pupils with a wide range of educational backgrounds”, and it “capitalises on the school’s global community” with discussions of American literature in class or celebrating the Hindu Festival of Lights in assembly, for example.
This is certainly not a school that uses a “one size fits all” model, particularly in the college years. In Grades 11 - 12, students have the choice of studying the IB Diploma Programme, IB Career-related Programme, Advanced Placement (AP) Capstone Diploma, high school diploma, or a combination of these. This multi-pathway makes ACS quite unique in the British private schools’ sector, although there are more than 90 schools in the UK offering the IBDP.
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 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 Hillingdon, the school has a strong focus on languages.
Alternatively, ACS offers a full AP programme, which includes 20 AP subjects, and it is currently the only school group in Europe to offer the AP Capstone, which is a relatively new two-year High School diploma. Courses are taken in English, maths, science, humanities, visual and performing arts, PE and health, world languages, and computer science and technology. AP remains a popular choice with students hoping to attend a prestigious college or university in the US, and this is reflected in the slightly higher cohort taking AP rather than the IBDP.
There’s a strong focus on the arts and non-core subjects here. From Pre-K, students have specialist teaching in art, music, PE, coding, media, languages and cultures, and Spanish in Grades 3 and 4; Grade 5 students are enrolled in a trimester of art, drama, and music, and middle school students continue to study art, drama, and music until Grade 8. As well as offering private music tuition, the school runs LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) courses for all ages. It also runs a strong film programme throughout the lower, middle, and high schools, has strong links with Pinewood Studios, and offers its most serious film students the chance to study the subject in the IBDP or IBCP.
As you may expect from a school with such a creative streak, there is a broad (and popular) programme of extra-curricular activities. Sport, cultural, and recreational activities such as music, drama, cooking, and street dance are well-attended throughout the school, and there is plenty of interest in competitive sports here.
ACS Hillingdon’s cohort of IB students consistently score above the global average. In 2020, the cohort sat the IBDP with a 97% pass rate, and the average score was 36 points against the world average of 30. To give these results context, that is equivalent to four A* grades at A-Level based on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) tariff system.
A smaller cohort of 25 students took AP exams in 2020, and the average GPA score was 3.0, which is a pass mark.
Surrounded by glorious English countryside on its doorstep, ACS Hillingdon is a stunning place to learn. Learning in the classrooms of a Mansion House with 13 acres of grounds has plenty of advantages. One of these is having access to some world-class sports facilities, including an all-weather playing field, tennis and basketball courts, and adventure play areas, with off-site facilities for soccer, rugby, swimming, and track & field.
ACS Hillingdon is a non-selective school, so there are no tough entrance exams to pass; entry is based on school reports and a student questionnaire. Annual day tuition fees range from £11.070 for pre-K through to £ 25,390 for Grades 11 - 12.
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