Raising adults, not children

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By Rose Threlfall, ICS Head of School

It is fascinating to watch students grow-up. I am always eager when they return to visit the school (typically well into their university courses or after receiving their degree) to find out how they are doing both personally and professionally. Did we as educators play a contributing role in their chosen career paths, or in the development of essential life skills such as resilience, integrity, empathy, compassion, independence, or self-assurance? Did we talk enough about the realities of being human: the ups and downs of relationships, self-doubt, living independently, being alone, dealing with tough times? It is obvious to say that we are not alone in this task and the phenomenally challenging role of parenting carries the major weight of this ‘load’.  However, I like the sentiment in the title, ‘raising adults’ as opposed to ‘raising children’ as it directs us to the longer-term goal of pushing our young people out into the world with the confidence that they know it’s their life and life’s decisions are theirs.

In her latest book, ‘Becoming’, Michelle Obama writes eloquently about such an approach:

“My mother maintained the sort of parental mind-set that I now recognise as brilliant and nearly impossible to emulate – a kind of unflappable Zen neutrality…. She loved us consistently… but we were not over managed… She and my dad offered guidelines rather than rules… and they would trust us to stick to our word… Every move she made, I realise now, was buttressed by the quiet confidence that she’d raised us to be adults”.


Over the past couple of weeks, a new Twitter hashtag, #headteachersreallife, started by a head teacher in the UK hit the national press for its honest posting about everyday life and its tribulations. Her tweets focus on the ordinary problems she faces, as a retort to what she called ‘humblebrag’ and carefully curated posts that highlight good looks, successes and popularity that create images of impossible perfection:

“I started tweeting about the ‘real stuff’ rather than simply the things I wanted to market or other people to see… People can curate their lives online and just show you the best bits. It can make their lives seem more perfect than they are. Only seeing good things may make young people feel they’re the only ones with problems”.

It’s an important message for a generation who have grown up plugged into social media channels. Our role is to support them to sift fact from fiction in the online world. However, when you are constantly bombarded by a fantasy world and your world doesn’t seem to add up to this perfection, no wonder there is rising concern about the mental health of our young adults and distortions in their understanding of the real world.

This topic resonates strongly with me personally. Having had the pleasure of being a part of my niece’s life as she has grown up, I have seen her encounter many life challenges, both professional and personal. I have had to explain that such challenges are completely normal. Jobs are not always perfect, bosses or mentors are not always helpful, it’s tough living alone for the first time, budgeting and making financial choices is a reality, confronting difficult colleagues who lack respect is a necessary challenge to be managed, and self-doubt is inevitable however successful we appear. The ability to keep healthy by developing necessary culinary skills and finding the right balance between work and play is something that must be figured out, and finding new friends and relationships all can take time.

Being young in today’s world is more difficult than ever before. My hope is that schools and parents can work together to develop the required competencies, experiences and conversations so essential for our students to develop robust self-worth and healthy and fulfilling adult lives.



ICS passes ISI inspection with flying colours!


A November 2018 Regulatory Compliance Inspection carried out by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) has found ICS to be fully compliant, in line with the stringent criteria examined by the inspection. The inspectorate has had to make no recommendations for improvement.

The ISI is an organisation responsible for the inspection of independent schools in England which are members of organisations affiliated to the Independent Schools Council (ISC). It is one of three independent schools inspectorates empowered to carry out inspections through an agreement with the Department for Education (DfE). ICS is a member of the ISA (Independent Schools Association) falling under the umbrella of the ISC.

The school was evaluated across eight areas outlined within the inspection report, and under rigorous examination, we are delighted that the school has met the high standards required.

On the result of the inspection, ICS Head of School, Rose Threlfall, commented:

“I am delighted with the result of the inspection, which confirms that the school is operating to the highest standards expected. ICS will continue to remain committed to maintaining the highest quality provision. I am thrilled with the efforts of the ICS team on a daily basis, and want to thank them for their hard work and dedication.”

ICS has enjoyed a thoroughly successful year, with 2018 IB Diploma results maintaining the school’s 34-point average over the last four years, with this year’s cohort achieving a mean score of 33.2 points, placing ICS well above the international average of 29 points.

You can view the full ISI report below.

Former ICS student Omar returns to ICS Secondary to talk about his experiences at the University of Oxford

No nerves here! Omar delivers a coaching session to two of our 2019 Oxford applicants ahead of their entrance exams

No nerves here! Omar delivers a coaching session to two of our 2019 Oxford applicants ahead of their entrance exams

Omar Abdelnasser, a former ICS student originally from Egypt, joined the school in 2012 and attended for four years, graduating from the IB Diploma Programme in 2016. Scoring 44 out of a possible 45 points in the Diploma, Omar achieved a feat managed by less than 1% of students globally. His success lead to him being offered a place at the University of Oxford to study Mathematics. The University of Oxford was declared the world’s top university in 2018 for the third year running, and was awarded the title based on its outstanding quality of research, teaching and innovation.

Today, Omar is back to visit ICS and to catch up with his Diploma mentor, former mathematics teacher and now newly appointed Secondary School Principal, Muz Chohan.

Omar, feeling relaxed and rested following his Summer break from university, is ready for his return to Oxford. Gearing up to head into the third year of his Mathematics degree (he is aiming to do a fourth year also, which will qualify him as having a Masters of Science in Mathematics), he is thriving and relishes the challenge the next year is set to bring.

We had a chat with Omar to find out how university is going, and how his time at ICS has supported his transition to Oxford life.

Omar! It’s fantastic to see you back at ICS, you’re certainly a familiar face to many and we’re delighted to see you! We can’t help but notice how confident you’ve become and we’re incredibly proud to see one of our alumni doing so well. Did your time at ICS prepare you for university?

Yes, absolutely! It’s on a smaller scale, of course, but there are so many similarities between how I studied at ICS working towards my Diploma and what I am experiencing at Oxford.

At ICS, your work is set by your teachers and you learn to motivate yourself and work from your own initiative. You become a self-study expert! It also helped that in ICS, you approach your teachers directly and this helps you become comfortable and confident in interacting with senior staff, something I practice on a daily basis with my tutors and lecturers at university.

You joined the Middle Years Programme at ICS in 2012 and began to foster a love of mathematics within the school – how did ICS support this interest?

My interest started to develop thanks to the teaching of mathematics at ICS, which really began to open my mind and broaden my horizons on the uses and concepts of mathematics. I had incredibly supportive teachers who inspired me by introducing me to the different mathematical disciplines. It was Mr. Muz (ICS Secondary Principal and Omar’s former mathematics teacher) that really got me interested in mathematics beyond simply an IB subject level.

Mr. Muz introduced me to extracurricular mathematics problems and challenges, and it gave me more of an idea of what university mathematics might be like. I also had 1-to-1 tutorials from Mr. Ryan (former ICS teacher) and Mr. Muz which gave me freedom within the curriculum to challenge myself at a higher level and exposed me to mathematics that I had not tried before.

Nurturing your interest and aptitude for mathematics got you thinking about applying for Oxford – did ICS guide you in your application?

Yes, we had career sessions, but once I became set on the idea of mathematics at Oxford, I found the mathematics department became my key support and guidance. My tutors Mr. Ryan and Mr. Muz coached me on entrance exams and my personal statement, as they were the ones who knew my strengths mathematically and how to highlight these as part of my application.

The International Baccalaureate is a programme that’s growing and growing in popularity and reputation in not just the UK, but across the world – do you feel that the subjects you cover within it are good preparation for continued studies of a particular topic at university level? Are there similarities between the mathematics you studied within the IB and the topics you are now studying at Oxford?

For me, the IB was an excellent preparation point, certainly as good as you can possibly have. The understanding and intuition within the IB is second to none and the breadth the subjects cover is fantastic, giving you the opportunity to explore a number of subjects.

You’re halfway through your Mathematics degree – have you started to think about future plans?

At the moment, I haven’t decided if I’ll do a PhD following the degree, but that might change! Mathematics is a subject in which you never stop learning. I have done some financial internships which have been very enlightening. It’s certainly a full-on course, but I am becoming clearer on my preferences mathematically – I love theory and problem solving!

Our final question to Omar was a simple one – “Are you enjoying the overall experience of Oxford?”.

He laughs, then smiles and says “I’ve been focussed on the experience of being at Oxford as a whole, university has certainly been about more than just learning mathematics!”.

With that, Omar is whisked away for a catch up with current Diploma students, all keen to learn from his experience and emulate his success in their own university applications.

We wish Omar all the best on his continued academic journey, and we’re already looking forward to when he next pops into ICS for a cup of tea!

ICS attends the NACE Schools Leadership Event 2018

‘Leaders and Learners inspiring Leaders and Learners’

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in October, ICS IB Diploma students travelled to Stonar School in Bath to participate in the NACE Student Leadership Event 2018.

Students from 10 European NACE schools were selected to take part in the 3-day workshop which aimed to develop and encourage team building and leadership skills.

Inspired by the outstanding professionals leading the programme, students discussed the art of team work, leadership styles, leadership qualities (“are leaders born or made?”) and participated in public speaking, debating and team building activities.

“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”

Kenneth H. Blanchard

Lieutenant Colonel David (Head of Physics, Stonar) shared his perspective and experiences of leading large groups of men and woman. He suggested that leadership (attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower) could be defined as -

‘the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because they want to do it, and not because of your position of power that could compel them to do it’.

He talked about nine different leadership styles and led a discussion that deconstructed each and identified their strengths and weaknesses.

Mr Jaime, Head of English and Drama at Stonar, delivered a workshop, ’Speak up for Success’ which unpacked the art and science of successful public speaking. Sharing the work of Clark Kegley, Jaime outlined seven powerful tips that confident speakers should weave into their presentations. Many practical tips were shared, which included embracing your nerves, thinking about the audience (‘what’s in it for them’?), to backing up your arguments.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without folly.”

Jime Rohn

Dr Katy Hamilton, a successful public orator and presenter as well as Stonar Alumni, was present to judge the workshop public speaking event. Each student was required to deliver a persuasive speech for two and a half minutes relating to a topic selected and then manage questions from the audience regarding the strength of their argument.

ICS student delivering an animated speech at the leadership event

ICS student delivering an animated speech at the leadership event

A number of contentious topics were selected for the students, which included ‘men make better leaders than women’, ‘pineapple on pizzas is the best topping’ and ‘global warming is a fiction’.

Students applied techniques they had learnt the day before, and argued their cases coherently. Dr. Hamilton commented the quality of the oratory was superb given that for many of the students, English is a second language. Speaking about the event, Katy noted -

“We live in an age where it is more imperative than ever that we really can prove, rigorously and unemotionally, why one point of view is right and another wrong, even about issues we might think are completely . . . obvious, like climate change. After my day at Stonar on Friday, I left feeling considerably more optimistic that there are some great young thinkers and speakers in the world who will be able to stand up to nonsense arguments. So I’d like to thank them for that – and encourage others to take them as an example of why fighting your corner so effectively is something we all need to make sure we can do, as clearly and calmly as possible.”

Students navigate the climbing wall

Students navigate the climbing wall

Finally, the students participated in a number of team building activities including rock climbing, abseiling, skittles, a scavenger hunt and the famous ‘helium stick’ and ‘planks’ activities. These emphasised the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication skills, problem solving plus the power of collaboration.

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

James Humes

Thank you Stonar, particularly Ms Charlotte, for organising such a powerful student leadership event and congratulations to all student participants. You truly were an inspiration.

Rose Threlfall

ICS Head of School

Rose attended the NACE Leadership event in October 2018

2018 IB DIPLOMA RESULTS – We did it again!

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ICS Head of School, Rose Threlfall, was delighted to today announce this year’s IB Diploma results.

The Class of 2018 achieved a 100% pass rate with a mean score of 33.2 points, maintaining the schools’ 34-point average over four years, a result well above the international norm.

Speaking of the results, Rose said, “It is impossible to thank the faculty enough for their outstanding contribution to the success of our students and the students themselves who now move confidently on to competitive universities around the world including the UK, knowing that they have successfully navigated what is perhaps the most rigorous and all-encompassing pre-university qualification that exists”.

Rose, who meets all prospective Diploma parents and students who apply to the School, noted that within the last couple of years, she has begun to meet more and more Diploma graduates who are now bringing their own children back to ICS to experience an international education.

Commenting on the trend, Rose said, “There is no better validation than sitting opposite a parent who themselves has completed the Diploma and wants their own child to experience the same. I am often absolutely captivated by the journey of these parents’ post-Diploma and the value they place on it as a formative and life changing experience’.

The results were published on the 6th July 2018, some 5 weeks ahead of A-level results.

2018 marks the 50th birthday of the IB Diploma programme and this year, 165,752 students around the world received their results. They join 1.7 million Diploma graduates who hold this cherished qualification.

Congratulations to all of our wonderful students, we wish you well with your future studies!

ICS IB Diploma 2018 graduation held

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On Friday the 18th May, the annual ICS Diploma graduation was held. This is always a very special evening, where the ICS community is given the opportunity to reflect and celebrate all that the Diploma 2 students have achieved over the past two years.

Once again, it was a joyous gathering of celebration and enjoyment, where the hard work and dedication the Diploma 2 students have shown was recognised.

The students received their ICS graduation certificates from their Diploma tutors and speeches were given by Miss Rose, Miss Brenda and Miss Joanna. However, the final speech of the evening was given by Diploma 2 student Cayla Bilyeu, who paid tribute to the strong bonds of friendship and camaraderie that had been formed by the DP 2 classmates, which was evident to all present.

What a fitting ending to an exceptional evening!