Years 9-11





The Curriculum Structure

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.

A guide to the Island Future curriculum

Island Futures is divided into four areas:

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 to find 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 areas such 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.

Comprises of physical education, health, 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.

Island Futures Curriculum

  • develops students’ skills and knowledge and prepares them for the challenges within the IB Diploma and Careers Programme,
  • helps students to be confident, independent learners, collaborators and critical thinkers,
  • gives students new experiences and opportunities to discover their passions,
  • allows students to specialise in their areas of interest,
  • gives students the opportunity to serve others and develop compassion,
  • prepares students for life beyond school,
  • makes education engaging, inspiring and fun.

Entrance courses 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.

A good set of IGCSE qualifications can be useful for students hoping to go to University in the United Kingdom or in Hong Kong. In these places it is the level of the grades that students obtain that outweighs 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 Foreign/Second Language) 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 from 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 ability 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.

There are also other compulsory constraints that apply only to Year 9 students. All Year 9 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.

The Options
The optional courses are listed below. Note that from Year 9 there is significant flexibility and choice. In Year 10 and 11, students can choose not only which Sciences, Languages, Humanities, Arts and Technologies they wish to 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 (compulsory)

First Language English (compulsory)
Languages (compulsory)
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World Literature (compulsory)
Mathematics (compulsory) Mathematics (compulsory)
Science (compulsory) Business Studies
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Visual Arts Physics
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Design & Technology(compulsory) Biology
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Science Double Award
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Philosophy & Religious Studies
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Computer Science
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Product Design
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Physical Education Geography
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Religious Studies
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Chinese as a First Language
Chinese as a Second Language
Chinese as a Foreign Language
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All languages courses here
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Fine Arts
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Food Preparation and Nutrition
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Year 10 Games (Physical Education)
Year 11 Games (Physical Education)
Year 11 Escape (Physical Education)

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 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 Entrance or in Elements.

When planning Languages options please click here.

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.

Elements courses are unique to Island School. Designed by teachers around their particular passions and fields of expertise, the Elements courses aim to ignite in students a passion and motivation to learn.

Year 9 Elements Prospectus
Year 10 – 11 Elements Prospectus

The wide range of courses, taught in longer time slots, allow students to learn more deeply and often in a collaborative way. They go well beyond the standard examination syllabus. The key focus of these courses is not on learning content, but rather developing core competencies (or skills) vital for the real world. They challenge, provoke, stimulate, and celebrate learning. This we recognise as a process of deep learning and will involve the acquisition of  global competencies: character, citizenship, communication, collaboration and critical thinking.

Elements courses are available to students in Years 9, 10 and 11. Students can choose from a wide variety of these courses and engage in these over the three years. Students can either choose options that allow them to dig deeper into areas that already interest them or sample a range of topics to discover their passions.

How long is an Elements course?
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 Years 10 and 11, students will have two elements blocks, leading to 4 courses every year.

What are they?
Elements courses come from teachers themselves. Each one has been proposed by a teacher wanting to share their interest in something they really love. 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 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 really world.

How will students be assessed?
Students will not be assessed by their level of knowledge, but rather by their growth in the core competencies (skills). Through a continual process of reflection and goal setting, students will recognise their development in the competencies and will be able to clearly express these formally and informally.


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.

What will students learn in Explorations?

Global Perspectives

Several of the units that students study over the three years are be drawn from the content of the Cambridge Global Perspectives IGCSE course. They are 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 content to revise. This is 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 climate change, there are 20 topics in total.

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 assessment.

Should you require more information about the course then please find the Cambridge syllabus here:


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. As a result, 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.

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?

How will students learn in Explorations?

There are several aspects to this course that makes 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 work in groups on broad areas of the curriculum, defining their research questions, and planning the way in which they will be addressed. They use a wide variety of materials made available to them, and research others. They 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 an eye on the various requirements of Global Perspectives IGCSE. 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.