Behind the arresting seven-story mural in the inner-city suburb of Spring Hill in Brisbane, a small group of independent high school students are learning about their place in the world through an internationally recognised global curriculum.

IES College is a new school start-up with a difference – it’s the only independent, co-educational and secular senior high school for Years 11 and 12 students to exclusively deliver the internationally recognised International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme.

What is the IB?

IB is a rigorous and recognised international curriculum that “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect”.

More than 5,400 schools in 158 countries offer one or more IB-recognised programs for students aged 3-19 years. 208 of these schools are in Australia.

Of the 23 IB schools in Queensland, 13 are in the independent sector, including IES College, which opened its doors at the start of the 2021 school year.

A small college with a global outlook

IES College Founding Principal Vanessa Leah has worked in a number of IB-accredited Australian and international schools, including six years as a teacher and later principal at the Zhuhai International School in the province of Guangdong in South China.

Ms Leah says she was drawn to the holistic and inquiry-based nature of the IB programme which seeks to develop a global mindset in its students “to embrace people in a more open-minded way”.

At IES College, there are no uniforms.

The official school day starts at 9.30am, in recognition of the sleep patterns of teens, and ends at 4.30pm. Classes contain no more than 10-12 students and students are also assigned a dedicated Student Success Advisor who meets with them weekly.

A place for students who love learning

Ms Leah says while the IB is an “academically rigorous” program, it’s not just for academic students.

The programme includes six subjects and three core elements comprising an interdisciplinary course on the theory of knowledge, a 4,000 word-extended essay and creative/active/service projects.

“What I really love about the six subjects in the diploma programme is that each subject is worth the same value. There’s no scaling penalty against those who do art, music or drama over maths or science,” she says.

Ms Leah says the diploma programme is for students who love to learn, ask questions, challenge themselves and are also organised and self-motivated.

Ms Leah says the school’s founding group of 26 students come from Brisbane as well as regions such as Toowoomba and the Gold Coast, with some families relocating to give their teenagers the opportunity to attend the school.

“Our new students have settled in really well. They’ve embraced our small school environment. When you go into the lunchroom you can hear their laughter while they’re playing board games,” she says.

“We want to nurture that smaller campus feeling. We want to offer the students somewhere they can feel safe to be themselves, where school feels like an extended family. We want the students to have that one to one attention with their teacher, and to know we have time for them.”

More information

IES College will be holding an Open Day on Saturday 29 May 10am-2pm. Register here.

This story was originally published on the Independent Schools Queensland website as New vertical global school in the heart of Brisbane.