One-year GCSE programme

(the One-year GCSE is sometimes called an International Transition Year – “ITY”)

The majority of GCSE (ITY) students finish the year by taking five GCSE exams. These include English, Maths, a dual Science award, one Humanities subject and their own language. These exams are internationally recognised qualifications.

This is a great qualification for international students aged 15 years+. After completing GCSEs students progress on to A-levels, the Business Diploma, or the International Baccalaureate (IB).

Two-year GCSE programme

Occasionally a family will prefer for their child to complete the GCSE content across two years. This provides the student with opportunity to improve language ability in the first instance, adjust to the demands of the UK curriculum, solidify learning, and then drive towards enhanced GCSE exam results at the end of the second year.

Why choose to study GCSEs at Earlscliffe?

Our small class sizes and supportive teaching environment enables students to achieve 5 GCSEs in just one year. This qualification is highly recognised all over the world. GCSEs put Earlscliffe students in a very good position to progress into further education and subsequently onto university and beyond.

Some international students choose to study GCSEs before moving onwards, simply to give themselves a year to adapt to the educational system. This enables them to improve language skills, and adjust to life in the UK.

Other students from overseas prefer to take the Earlscliffe GCSE (ITY) as an experience year away from their own educational system. The British way of learning is an enjoyable change from their native curriculum, and they get fully involved in British boarding school life. At the end of this one-year programme, they have grown both academically and emotionally.


(UK National Curriculum: key stage 4 )

GCSE “taster” course

A limited number of places are available for students wishing to spend one or two terms with us on the ITY course. This is a great option for students wanting to improve their English and their academic confidence. This can be a particularly beneficial experience, as it helps to prepare the student ahead of the following academic year.

When this course is taken from April to September, it is sometimes referred to as a “pre-sessional“.

ITY students participate in the Earlscliffe Induction Days in September. This includes both academic and social orientation, as well as team-building excursions. ITY students participate fully in sports, social and cultural activities, academic enrichment opportunities and everyday school life during their time here. They study and socialise alongside  our A-level, Business Diploma and University Foundation Year students.

Our ITY students take A-level taster lessons at the end of their second term, in order to help them make decisions on which A-level subjects they wish to study in the following academic year. They are fully supported in making their decisions, and their parents are involved as well.

ITY Course Content

Our ITY course includes:

  • English Language – either as a First Language or Second Language. Students who study English as a First Language will also study English Literature.
  • Mathematics – either the Higher or Foundation tier
  • A dual science award
  • One Humanities subject – Art, Business Studies, Geography, History or Statistics
  • Native language – we can offer GCSE tuition and exams in many languages including, but not limited to, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Arabic.

Our course content has been designed to provide the students with a broad, balanced curriculum. It has also been designed for students who may return back to their national educational system.

Small class sizes and intensive teaching

Even in the most popular subjects we insist on small classes. The reason for having small classes is very simple. The greater the amount of individual attention that the student receives, the greater the chances are that the student will achieve better grades. In a small class, teachers are able to get to know the students. Everybody is given the opportunity to contribute. In addition, small classes create safe environments in which students are more willing to participate and ask questions.

Class sizes average at around 7 students. This means some subject choices have classes which only have 2 or 3 students and others are above average due to their popularity. When a class reaches a maximum of 12-13 students we will look to open a new class for that subject.

In our rigorous and well-structured lessons, meaningful and positive relationships are built, a determined work ethic is created and each student achieves their full potential.

English language support

EAL (English as an Additional Language) is a fundamental part of our school. The individual English language needs of each student are taken into account by their teacher and lessons are planned accordingly.

Our teachers are very experienced with EAL and they employ a wide range of methods to help support the development of the students’ English language skills. The specifics of the support will depend very much on each students’ needs and the course they are doing. For example, ITY students may have to read works of fiction and produce book reports, whereas A-level students will have to learn subject-specific terminology, in context, and take part in frequent vocabulary tests.

TRaC™ Testing System

Our TRaC™ (‘Test, Rank and Coach’) system of weekly, competitive testing is a key factor of Earlscliffe’s assessment and target-setting strategy.

Teachers set tests for each of the main subjects during the week. Papers are based on the week’s work and they are returned graded according to A-level or GCSE criteria, ranked according to the student’s relative performance in class, and followed up with coaching sessions to assist with continuous improvement as needed.

TRaC™ testing keeps students working at a consistent, measurable level and pace.
These weekly results are monitored by the student’s teachers as well as the Head of Department and the student’s Head of Year. Students soon get used to the system and regard it as a valuable tool. As a team, we are able to consistently assess our students’ knowledge and skills, and feel in control of learning.

TRaC™ scores are made available to parents and guardians through the Parent Portal (password protected). Please note that it is unusual for a student on any course to achieve all high grades in TRaC™ tests in the first few weeks of the course, as they need a little time to settle down and get used to the academic requirements, the language and the marking schemes.

Parents are encouraged to monitor TRaC™ performance and pass their comments and praise to their children accordingly. TRaC™ results can also be sent to guardians if wished. For a fuller discussion or explanation of your son or daughter’s TRaC™ test records please contact the Deputy Head: nialljohnson@earlscliffe.co.uk


Homework is completed in the evenings and at weekends. Students are allocated at least two hours each evening as quiet study time in their rooms, which is supervised by their House Managers. While many students do less homework on Saturdays, almost all students use Sundays to do some serious, extended study in their own time.



The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination is a globally-recognised English language test, required for university entry and many other purposes. This must be taken by all students who do not hold a GCSE English Language qualification from a UK school.

All students, unless they are native English speakers, will attend IELTS lessons regularly to improve their English, even if they do not intend to go to a UK university. IELTS is taught by qualified teachers for between two and six lessons per week.

The IELTS exam can be taken at various points in the academic year. The examination has writing, reading, listening and speaking components. Most top UK universities will require an overall score of at least 6.5 or 7.0, with good scores in the writing and reading sections.

There is no limit on the number of times you can re-take the IELTS examination. It can be taken and then improved upon at the next exam sitting, and so on throughout the year if necessary. We expect the majority of students to attain a 6.5 or 7.0 within a year of starting their A-level studies with us.

Sample Timetable

0830 – 0900 Group Tutor
0900 – 0945 P1 English English Maths Computer Science English
0945 – 1030 P2 English English Maths Computer Science English
1030 – 1045 Break
1045 – 1130 P3 Maths Maths English English Combined Science
1130 – 1215 P4 Maths Maths English English Combined Science
1215 – 1300 P5 LUNCH
1300 – 13.45 P6 Computer Science Computer Science SCS PSHE Combined Science
1345 – 1430 P7 Computer Science Computer Science SCS PSHE Combined Science
1430 – 1500 Break and Group Tutor
1500 – 1545 P8 English Combined Science Combined Science Maths Sport
1545 – 1630 P9 English Combined Science Combined Science Maths Sport
1630 – 17:15 P10 Meetings, tutoring or clubs 

SCS = Sports Culture Service; Student chooses from a list of options e.g; book club, baking, photography, public speaking etc

PSHE = Personal, Social, Health Education

Sport = Compulsory session for GCSE level students.


Teaching hours – per week – Each period = 45mins

  • English – 9
  • Combined Science – 6
  • Maths – 6
  • Extra subject – 4.5
  • Other – 4.5