About Years 9-11

The Background





Phase Team


Island Futures

BINGE, Chris

Principal Chris Binge

“Island Futures is an incredible unique experience that you just can’t find at any other school.” – Island School Student 

The Island Futures programme spans years 9 to 11. It is the result of deep research into curricula around the world, serious discussion with our parents and students and inspired enthusiastic work from our teaching staff. It captures the Island School Values of pursuing excellence, embracing responsibility and celebrating individuality in a unique way. Students have more choice, more chance to take control of their learning and to personalise the curriculum for their own needs.

There is a combination of core subjects followed by all, and a wide range of choices that allow students to tailor their educational journey to their passions. The programme prepares students for what is to follow while engaging them fully in the opportunities of the middle years of secondary school.

The Why

We recognize that the world in in constant change and if our students are not empowered to move with this change, they are at risk of being cast adrift. Yes, the examination results still matter, but this simply isn’t enough.
We know that our students can be quite different from each other, not only in personality but also in social development, academic ability and learning preferences. They have different strengths are ready for new challenges at different times. The Island Futures curriculum will afford students a much more effective way of achieving all they want from their education.

For a more detailed background into the defining aims of the curriculum read the Island Futures Manifesto here.

Click here to read about the Futures Curriculum in Chinese. 


The Island Futures Curriculum refers to the curriculum taken by students in Years 9, 10 and Year 11.  It:

  • develops students skills and knowledge and prepares them for the challenges within the IB Diploma and Applied Learning Pathway,
  • supports students to be confident independent learners, collaborators and critical thinkers,
  • gives students experiences and opportunities to discover their passions,
  • allows students to specialise within a broad all round education,
  • gives students the opportunity to serve others and develop compassion,
  • prepares students for life beyond school,
  • makes education engaging, inspiring and fun.

The Curriculum Structure


The Typical Middle School Timetable

Island Futures provides a rounded education with a compulsory core, complemented by a wide range of student choice in subjects and courses. These choices are made after discussion and guidance with house staff and teachers, and through consultation with parents. Students are advised of the impact that any choice may have on their future at school and beyond.
Island Futures is divided into four areas:

Click here to see a copy of the Futures Curriculum

These courses comprise the bulk of the programme. Maths, English and World Literature are compulsory. Other subjects are chosen from the Arts, Humanities, Sciences and Technologies. They prepare students for GCSE or IGCSE certification.

Elements courses provide the opportunity for students find to their passion. There are over 50 courses to choose from covering a wide range of areas such as Architecture, Marine Biology, Law and Acting. Students take 10 courses over three years and these courses are internally assessed.

This compulsory course leads to the IGCSE in Global Perspectives and the IE Award in ICT. Students work in research groups to study such areas as World Conflict, Health, Poverty and Education. Leadership and collaboration skills are developed during the three years as the research groups contain students from years 9, 10 and 11.

Escape comprises Physical Education, Health and Fitness and the opportunity for Outward Bound activities. We work with outside organisations to provide a range of alternative activities both inside and outside school.

Entrance courses are the basic courses in the main subject areas. They follow British GCSE or IGCSE curricula and lead to examinations and qualifications in each subject. Typically each course span two years, in Years 10 and 11, with final exams and coursework presented in May or June of Year 11.islandfutureslogoEntrance

A good set of IGCSE qualifications can be useful for students hoping to go to University in the United Kingdom or in Hong Kong, although they are not absolutely necessary. In these places it is the level of the grades that students obtain that is much more important than the number of the grades. For other countries the qualifications are not particularly valuable, although the experience may well be.

The Entrance courses are for all students to follow as the starting point for putting together a programme for Island Futures. In addition to the core subjects, English and Maths, they will need to pick from the other choices in Languages, Sciences, Humanities, Arts and Technologies that will suit them best.

These GCSE and IGCSE courses are Entrance level courses which make studying for the qualifications, and sitting the exams available to all students. Some subjects ( Maths and Chinese) may start the GCSE programme in Year 9. Others (Sciences, Humanities, English Language and World Literature) will start them in Year 10.

Which courses are compulsory?
All students will study Maths and English  for all of Years 9, 10 and 11. The English programme is based around two GCSE courses, English Language and World Literature, and goes continuously for Year 9 to Year 11. Various set texts are studied as well as the use of English for various types of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

The Maths classes are set according to the student’s facility with the subject. Those who are capable to do so are taken well beyond the GCSE syllabus to prepare for the higher levels of IB Maths. Those who find the subject more challenging are given extra support to take them through and beyond the basic skills.

In Year 9 there are other compulsory constraints. These following constraints apply only to Year 9. All students will study Science, one or two Languages other than English, and at least one Humanities course.
Students will need to take at least one Arts course and one Technology course. These may be in the Entrance section or within the Elements programme.

What are the options?
The optional courses are listed below. Note that even in Year 9 there is significant flexibility to choose a programme that emphasises particular areas or has a broad range. In Year 10 and 11, these choices open up and students can choose not only which Sciences, Languages, Humanities, Arts and Technologies they take, but how many in each area. These choices must be made in conjunction with courses chosen in the Elements part of the curriculum. One of the differences between Entrance and Elements is that Entrance courses are defined by UK examining boards and lead to an external exam.

English Language compulsory
World Literature compulsory
Languages compulsory 
Mathematics compulsory
Science compulsory
Textiles Technology
Food Technology
Visual Arts
Design & Technology
Theatre Drama
Philosophy & Religious Studies
Englis Language compulsory
World Literature compulsory
Mathematics compulsory
Textiles Technology
Theatre Drama
Arts & Design

Are there constraints on the options, and are certain courses necessary for the IB or Advanced Diplomas?
There are no hard and fast constraints apart from English and Maths. However students will have a lot of guidance and will need to be looking carefully at their aims for the IB or Advanced Diplomas and their university or even career aspirations. It would, for example, be very difficult to imagine a student taking an IB Science course at Higher Level without having followed that subject in Years 10 and 11 either at Entrants or in Elements.

Do students have to take the final exams?
The exam is not mandatory. Students who need the qualifications and students who would benefit from the exam practice should certainly take the exams. However for some students UK IGCSEs are of no value as qualifications and will be following the course more to get internal school grades for a transcript that will help them apply for universities in countries such as the USA. These discussions can be had with guidance staff so that all students make the right decision.


Designed by teachers around their particular passions and fields of expertise, Elements courses aim to ignite in students a similar passion and an intrinsic motivation to learn. The wide range of courses, taught in longer time slots, will allow students to learn more deeply, often in a collaborative and transdisciplinary way and to go well beyond the dictates and confines of an examination syllabus. The skills acquired by students on these courses will help bridge the gap between IGCSE, the IB Diploma and the world beyond Island School.
Elements courses are available to students in years 9, 10 and 11. Students will choose from a wide variety of these courses and build up a programme of elements over the three years. If they already know what their passionate interests are they will choose options that allow them to dig much deeper into them. If, as is probably most often the case, they are still unsure of their passions, they will sample from across the range to them to discover their passions.

What courses are on offer, and how long will students spend on them?
The top right panel gives a list of the courses that are currently planned for the school year 2016/2017. The list of courses changes slightly each year. In Year 9 students will have one block of Elements a week. Most of the courses run for half a year, and so they can pick two courses in the year. In Year 10 and 11 students will have two elements blocks, leading to 4 courses.

Where do these courses come from?
When adults remember their school experiences and are asked about memorable teachers or classes that made a formative impression on their lives, they often refer to teachers who were passionate about their subject. It is this passion from the teacher that so often ignites the passion in the student. Elements aims to prioritise this effect by ensuring teachers are teaching about their passions. For this reason the courses come from the teachers themselves. Each one has been proposed by a teacher wanting to ignite the flame of excitement in their students about something they really love. The courses have been written by groups of teachers working together and drawing on a variety of outside influences.

Each course will have aspects where students can make choices about the course direction. They will be encouraged and allowed to follow their interest within the scope of the course. Many courses will have a real world impact and will involve students leaving the classroom and the campus to experience and to learn. Students often engage with professionals from outside Island School to discover what each area of discipline entails in the adult world.

How will students choose?
There will be several criteria, that may influence choices, and students will work with guidance staff and their parents throughout the process.
Courses will include the range of specific skills that students will learn and improve while taking on the course. These skills fall under the broad headings of the IB framework of Approaches to Learning but set in the language of Island Schools 5 Cs. Students will engage in discussions with their guidance staff about the skills that they need to develop and will be able to map the courses that they choose in relation to these needs over the three year period.

Courses will be linked to various subject areas. In some cases they will be specifically linked to one area, but several of the courses will be linked to more than one as they transcend the usual boundaries. Students will be able to map out the courses they take in relation to these so that they complement or support.


Organized in more extended blocks of time, the Explorations course will develop students’ understanding of world issues and their capacity to be self-aware, to think critically and to serve others. This will be fostered through themed units focused on global perspectives but also relevant to the students’ lives, including personal and social education and the safe and effective use of technologies.

Explorations is a course that students will take throughout years 9, 10 and 11. In it we pull together a variety of different aspects of our programme in order to make them coherent. The course is distinctive in both its content and the way in which students learn. It adds a learning experience not found in the Entrance or Elements courses to a content base that is again different from the other aspects.

What will students learn in Explorations?

Global Perspectives

Several of the units that students will study over the three years will be drawn from the content of the Cambridge Global Perspectives IGCSE course. This is split into three parts.

  1. Students are required to complete two individual research reports on a question that they have chosen. These two pieces are worth 40% combined.
  2. Students complete a group project where they have to research, plan, deliver and review a project. It is different to the individual piece in that it requires the students to have to actually do something about an issue. The examined work is focused on how the students collaborate, plan and review their work. This is worth 30% of the qualification.
  3. The final part of the course is an exam that involves students being presented with stimuli before answering questions based around it. This is a skills based assessment and although we will spend time preparing for it, there is no revision that students are able to prepare for it. This will be completed in May and is also worth 30%.

All of the topics for these pieces are based around events that are happening within the world and include areas such as poverty, health, sport and recreation or global warming, in total there are 20 topics.

Over the entire Explorations program students will complete a combination of the group and individual tasks allowing them to produce a variety of outcomes. From these completed tasks, students will be able to choose which pieces they wish to submit in year 11 for their final pieces.

Should you require more information about the course then please find the Cambridge syllabus here: http://www.cie.org.uk/images/128448-2015-syllabus.pdf


Part of the aim of the Global Perspectives IGCSE requires action on the issues being studied. This fits in perfectly with the demands of the Creativity Action Service (CAS) element of the IB Diploma. So some of the work done in the Explorations units will lead to action that cultivates these skills and prepares the students for this mandatory part of the IB Diploma

Digital Literacy

Students will be required to learn a variety of ICT skills throughout the course and demonstrate these in their responses to the questions posed in the various Explorations units. There will be opportunities for them to learn the various skills and the emphasis is for students to choose the appropriate ones to demonstrate for their response to each issue. If students can show adequate use of a wide enough variety of skills they will be eligible for the IE Award, which is a Diploma in Applied ICT accredited by ASDAN in the UK.

Personal Health

Some of the units will link global issues to issues of personal health and development. Students will study materials and work with visiting speakers to gain understanding of issues of adolescent development that will support them in taking positive responsible decisions about their lives.

Critical Thinking

Analysing claims of knowledge is at the heart of the IB Theory of Knowledge course. Students will develop skills to help them tell knowledge from opinion and propaganda. They will question the basis of claims of truth from a wide variety of areas. These will include the sciences, politics and advertising. They will compare and contrast academic papers, newspaper articles and web sites. One of the key questions we all face is which sources of knowledge are reliable and why?


All students are maintaining a blog for their Explorations course and we would encourage you to look at your son/daughters. A link to their blog is available from the Explorations option on the ARR.

How will students learn in Explorations?

There are several aspects to this course that will make it different from others. The key skills that we will focus on will be in the areas of research, analysis and presentation of results. Students will work in groups on broad areas of the curriculum, defining their research questions, and planning the way in which they will addressed. They will use a wide variety of materials made available to them, and research others. They will then need to decide which is the best way to present the results of their research. This may be an academic paper, a delivered presentation, a web site, a film, a collection of newspaper articles or one of any number of alternatives.

The teacher will be there to guide and support them through the decision making processes, and to make sure they keep one eye on the various requirements of Global Perspectives IGCSE and the IE Award. The students will also learn from each other as the groups are set up for younger students to learn from the older ones as the older ones take on more responsibility and leadership.

Middle Phase Team

Vice Principal Trudy Lant
Vice Principal
Trudy Lant
Senior Leader and Head of Humanities Paul Bentham
Senior Leader and
Head of Humanities
Paul Bentham

Choosing Courses for Year 9 at Island School

What are the broad aims for all students in year 9?

This is the point at which students start to take control of their education in terms of the subjects they choose. There are choices in both Entrance and Elements courses, but the framework of the programmes continues to give a broad based curriculum with access to all areas.

Students should start the process of finding out where their future success and love of learning will lie. In making choices this year, they are preparing for the greater freedom they will have in the years to come. They are starting to answer questions about how to make responsible decisions.

It is also a year where they begin to learn from older students in an academic context. In Explorations and Elements they will share projects with students in years 10 and 11. They will see the leadership roles that we hope they will go on to take up in the years to come.

This is the next step in developing a love of learning and a joy in their education.

What are the differences from years 7 and 8?

The challenge is greater in all areas, and the challenge includes taking greater responsibility. The choices that they have need to be made with guidance and reflection. At this stage students should be looking for balance and breadth, saving the specialisation for later.

The element of choice extends outside the classroom and includes Quest Week, where the camp of year 7 and 8 is replaced by a variety of optional activities either in Hong Kong or abroad.

What are the mandatory courses that all students will take?

All students will continue with English and Maths. In both these areas the programmes lead to IGCSE examinations in English Language, World Literature and Mathematics in year 11.

Science is also mandatory in year 9 and covers a range of aspects from Biology, Chemistry and Physics to prepare students for choice in this area the following year. Language courses stay the same as year 8, with the oportunity for changes in year 10.

A new course to the students is Explorations. The content of this is an IGCSE in Global Perspectives, which will be completed in year 11. Alongside this is the IE Award in Applied ICT, a gcse Equivalent course. Students will learn key communication skills in ICT that they will use to express their responses to the global issues they are researching. A key element of this course is collaboration, which is learned through working in groups and finding out how to make this successful for all individuals and the group as a whole.

Escape is a physical education course that works on the core skills of fitness and health.

Where are the choices, and when are they made?

Final choices for Elements and Entrance courses are made in January of year 8.

Students will choose six Entrance courses from nine possible courses. There are three options in each of the Arts, the Humanities and the Design subjects. In the interests of breadth we recommend two from each area, and certainly at least one.

Students will choose two Elements courses for year 9 out of a choice of 30. If they do not get what they want this year, then they are all available again in years 10 and 11. For this reason they are also required to make a second choice if the first choice is not available this year.

What is the difference between Entrance and Elements?

The first difference is the time frame. Entrance courses are “long and thin”. This means one period a week for the whole year, giving steady growth in understanding. Elements courses are “short and fat”. A single treble period a week for half a year, allowing an intensive burst of concentration in a particular area.

The time difference allows, and requires, a different style of teaching and learning. Elements courses lend themselves to subjects where intensive study or practical sessions are important. They also allow time for students to take their learning out of school to make the most of Hong Kong without interrupting other learning.

Entrance courses are aimed to provide a base for future study in these subject areas. Each one can lead on to an Entrance (IGCSE) course or one of a variety of Elements courses in years 10 and 11. Elements courses are more experience-focussed, where the lack of external constraints allows teachers and students to explore the areas of greatest interest, which may be different for different students. In a sense there is no limit on where an Elements course can go.

We believe that the two types of learning in Entrance and Elements complement each other and contribute to a complete education.

What are the future implications of choices in year 9?

At this stage no course choice closes any doors for the future. Obviously students should choose the subjects that fire their interest, and these are likely to include those they take on in the future. However, none of the courses in year 10 have any pre-requisite that a particular course is studied in year 9.

What is the general advice for the best package of courses?

We strongly advise that some Arts, Design and Humanities is included in all students’ packages. Breadth of educational experience is vital at this stage rather than making a decision to specialise too much. The picture across Entrance and Elements should reflect this breadth. We also recommend that students try some new things that will push them out of their comfort zone.

Choosing Courses for Years 10 and 11 at Island School

What are the broad aims for all students in these two years?

We aim for students to have a balance of depth, in subjects they choose to study intensively, and breadth, of understanding a wide range of learning areas. During these two years students should discover their strengths and build on them. They should find out what their passions and interests are and find paths to pursue them.

Students should develop the skills they have begun to acquire in all subjects in the early years. They should be able to take some subjects through to a significant level of depth of understanding. They should be able to try a wide range of different areas of study.

By the end of the middle school, students should be well placed to make informed choices for the next phase of their education based on their strengths, skills, interests, passions and learning styles.

We aim for students to enjoy the experience of school for its own sake and because students perform better in a climate of enjoyment. We also aim to blend the academic curriculum with co-curricular life.

What are the differences from years 7, 8 and 9?

There is a steadily increasing challenge in these two years, which prepares students for the next phase and introduces the notion that deep study is interesting and enjoyable.

There is a much greater breadth of choice with over 60 different courses of different types on offer. Students with clear aims can specialise in areas that that interest them, while still sampling others. Students who have yet to be sure of their direction can sample a wide range of disciplines while still developing depth in the core skills.

There is much greater depth to courses that students choose to pursue. This depth can come through pursuing a single subject for two years or from intensive study of a subject for a shorter period of time

There is more emphasis on the student taking responsibility for their learning. This happens in the option choice structure itself, where the student becomes increasingly at the centre of the process. It also happens within courses where students can take leadership roles and make choices about the direction of their own learning. These are necessary skills of a mature young adult that need to be acquired during the middle years

What are the mandatory courses that all students will take?

All students will continue the English and Maths courses that have begun in year 9. They will follow these through to the end of year 11, where they can sit IGCSE exams in English Language, World Literature and Mathematics. These vital core skills are important for future education and life in general. They prepare for mandatory courses in the IB Diploma and optional courses in the Applied learning Programme (ALP).

All students will also continue the Explorations course begun in year 9, gradually taking more of a leading role in the working groups. This will lead to an IGCSE in Global Perspectives and the IE Award, a GCSE equivalent qualification in ICT.

The four IGCSEs mentioned are examined at the end of year 11 and the IE Award is assessed by coursework during the two years.

Where are the choices, and when are they made?

Final choices for Elements and Entrance courses are made in January of year 9.

Students will choose four Entrance courses leading to a total of eight IGCSEs, and the IE Award, including the core courses. These courses are called Entrance courses and once chosen, the students will stay with them for two years leading to exams at the end of year 11.

Students will choose four Elements courses for year 10 and then a different four for year 11. Some of these courses are stand alone, and others are linked so that one leads on to another. Yet others are so flexible that students can take them twice building in the skills learned the first time round.

What is the difference between Entrance and Elements?

The first difference is the time frame. Entrance courses are “long and thin”. This means two periods a week for the two year period, gradually building skills and knowledge. Elements courses are “short and fat”. A single treble period a week for half a year, allowing an intensive burst of concentration in a particular area.

The time difference allows, and requires, a different style of teaching and learning. Elements courses lend themselves to subjects where intensive study or practical sessions are important. They also allow time for students to take their learning out of school, through expeditions off campus, to make the most of Hong Kong without interrupting other learning in other subjects.

Entrance courses are end-focussed. The syllabus is set by an external exam board and that defines the course for the two years. The exam board awards the qualification based on exam and/or coursework. Elements courses are more experience-focussed, where the lack of external constraints allows teachers and students to explore the areas of greatest interest, which may be different for different students. In a sense there is no limit on where an Elements course can go.

We believe that the two types of learning in Entrance and Elements complement each other and contribute to a complete education.

Escape also provides a range of choices in physical and outdoor education. Students make their choices at the end of year 9 for year 10, and again at the end of year 10 for year 11.

What are the choices, and how do they affect choices in 12 and 13…

…in languages?

Entrance courses in languages are offered in Chinese, Japanese, French and Spanish. Each leads to an IGCSE at the end of year 11. Chinese IGCSE exists at different levels for students with different facility in the language. None of these are beginner’s courses and depend on having been doing the language in year 9. Students and parents will choose the language, with guidance, and the school will decide the appropriate class and level. These courses will enable students to take language A or language B courses at IB Diploma or Applied Learning Pathway (ALP).

There are also Elements courses in French and Spanish. These are for beginners in these languages, and would enable students to follow the IB ab initio courses in year 12.

The Elements course “Independent Language Centre” supports students who are studying their mother tongue in a language that we do not teach. We can help find tutors for these languages, where available, which are at the parents’ cost.

A second language (IB Group 2), other than English is mandatory for the IB and optional for the Applied Learning Pathway.

…in Humanities?

While Global Perspectives is mandatory, all other humanities subjects are made by choice and there is a wide range in both Entrance and Elements. It is important that students include humanities courses in their programme for these two years. They are about understanding the world in which we live and about what it means to be human. Whilst none of the courses are a pre requisite for the IB or ALP program, the Entrance courses form a firm base for the subjects to be pursued at a higher level and the Humanities department would therefore encourage students to take one humanities option within the Entrance program.. Students can start any IB or ALP course in Humanities (IB Group 3) without having studied the subject before.

…in Sciences and Technology?

In Entrance science is offered at IGCSE in Biology, Chemistry or Physics. In Elements we offer Biology Matters, Chemistry Concepts and Fundamental Physics. The Elements courses are in three parts, with each one lasting a half a year.

The Science department advise that either Entrance or Elements 1 and 2 (together) provide a good background to study IB Science at HL or SL. This is equally true for the Entrance and Elements courses as the content of these courses are equivalent and the level of difficulty is the same. The difference lies in the way they are taught and the way they are assessed.

Elements part 3 courses go beyond the Entrance and Elements 1 and 2 courses and are an ideal course for someone who loves science and wants to pursue it at IB Higher level.

In deciding how many science courses to take, students must consider their future aspirations. 3 core sciences at either Entrance or Elements are possible for those who love their science and see their future in areas such as Medicine and other trans-disciplinary science based vocations. Many students take 2 sciences, which keep open a wide number of science or science related paths. 1 science is really for students who do not see their future in something with that emphasis. It is possible to take no science course at all, but discussions need to be had about what the future may hold.

At IB, students need to take a group 4 subject. Group 4 includes Biology, Chemistry and Physics, but there are also IB courses in this group that do not have any prerequisite in terms of middle school courses. It is perfectly acceptable to take an IB Diploma with Environmental Systems, Design Technology or Sports Science which satisfies the science requirement. In this case there is no need for any particular course to be studied in Entrance or Elements.  However, just like other Group 4 subjects we recommend students consider their pathway through Elements and Entrance to prepare themselves adequately for IB.  Accordingly, students will find options in Technology at IB more accessible if they take courses in Years 10 and 11 in preparation.

There are many Design and Technology courses available in Entrance and Elements, and students who love this area, or want to try it, can pick up a series of courses in Computing, Graphics, Design, Food, Textiles, Engineering, Architecture or Robotics.

…in the Arts?

As in the other areas there are courses available in Entrance and in Elements in a wide variety of artistic domains. Some Elements courses lead naturally to others, where learning skills in one semester can lead to a production, performance or exhibition in the next. Students of this particular mindset can concentrate on their area of passion by picking up several courses. Others, who are not so certain, can try different areas to see whether there are things they would like to pursue.

What is the general advice for the best package of courses?

We strongly advise that some Arts, Design and Science is included in all students’ packages. They are a vital part of education and indeed human culture as a whole. In the interests of the breadth of education and the full range of ways of thinking, students should keep some level of all of these strands alongside the Language, Literature, Mathematics and Humanities that are in the core.

Beyond that students should look for a balance of academic challenge and pursuing stretching their comfort zone, and the opportunity is there to go into real depth in areas of interest and passion.