ACS Hillingdon launches Global Citizens Diploma to recognise every student's achievements beyond grades

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ACS International School Hillingdon has become the first school in Europe to offer the Global Citizens Diploma (GCD), a unique qualification that goes beyond academic results to acknowledge all of the exceptional citizenship and service-related activities students undertake to become global citizens.

A prominent addition to any university or job application, the GCD allows High School students (aged 14-18) to demonstrate their skills, personality and values beyond their academic grades, and provides them with a tangible, internationally-recognised, qualification. As well as consolidating the activities that students are already completing within the school day and in their spare time, the GCD encourages students to take these actions to the next level and will also enable the school to provide new opportunities for students to develop key life skills and a greater global awareness.

The GCD comprises 16 key elements, which are split into core values, competencies and areas of expertise, and include elements such as: community engagement, global understanding, intercultural communication, wilderness engagement, work experience, artistic expression and leadership.

Students are required to log a series of 'stories' describing the activities they have undertaken to showcase that they have completed and reflected on the required element. ACS Hillingdon’s Coordinator for Digital Teaching & Learning, Alex Reid, has worked to build a specification and secure approval of a bespoke application which allows students to easily submit their stories. Through the 'Toddle' app students can use multiple formats and media to complete their stories - either in written format, as a video, as audio, as a photo collage and more.

The GCD can be completed to three different levels: Global Citizens Certificate (GCC), the GCD or the GCD+. All High School students at ACS Hillingdon are required to complete at least the GCC before they graduate, but are encouraged to go on to complete the full GCD. To support students in developing the skills required to complete their GCD activities, Lisa Blair, ACS Hillingdon's Upper School Principal has introduced weekly Personal Development Programme (PDP) lessons which all High School students will attend.

Following a successful pilot programme which involved around a dozen ACS Hillingdon High School students, the school is now rolling out the GCD to all Grade 9 and 10 students. Co-ordinated by Lisa Blair, Alyssa Ballard, Academic Principal and Andy Groark, ACS Hillingdon's experiential learning coordinator, the programme is now mainly led by a student-run GCD committee, who can provide advice and guidance to their peers.

So far, students have completed a range of activities that contribute towards their diploma. For example, Grade 11 student Ellie has completed the Core Value: Community Engagement by volunteering for over a year with Young Healthwatch Hillingdon, a charity established to enable young people to reach out to people in their age group and help them with their physical and mental health. Audra, an American student in Grade 11, completed the Core Value: Inter-Cultural Communication by reflecting on how studying foreign languages has immersed her in European culture. Grade 11 student, Gemma, earned the Competency: Wilderness Engagement by writing about her six years spent attending Nature Camp, where she learnt to cherish the environment and the planet.

By reflecting on their activities and achievements in this way, students are not only able to consolidate their interests and abilities, but they also graduate with a set of tangible stories that can be used to support university and job applications and personal statements and can be accessed by teachers when writing references.

Martin Hall, Head of School, ACS Hillingdon comments: "I’m thrilled that we’ve found such an effective and thoughtfully structured way of supporting and reinforcing our school’s values, especially given that the values of the GCD so precisely match our own. We want every student to be an effective learner, a confident individual and a caring contributor. Above all this, through learning, we want all to make a difference.

I see this Diploma as an excellent way of recognising our students’ broader learning, of deepening their understanding about what it means to be a citizen of this world and of motivating them to learn more, reflecting on their experiences and using that learning for the benefit of others, as well as themselves. "I believe that the introduction of the GCD at ACS Hillingdon is potentially quite transformative for our school and I’m truly excited to see the impact it is already starting to have on our students.