SEK-Catalunya in La Garriga, Maresme

SEK-Catalunya is one of the 9 schools that make up SEK International Schools. The education offered covers all age groups, from 4 months to 18 years of age. SEK-Catalunya is a member of the IB® World Schools International Community.  The school offers the International Baccalaureate® programmes from 3 up to 18 years of age, integrated with the national curriculum. It is based in La Garriga, half an hour from Barcelona.

MumAbroad Life speaks to Joanne McMinn, Head of International admissions and communications about the school’s ethos, curriculum and social responsibility…..

What is the philosophy of SEK-Catalunya?
SEK-Catalunya promotes a quality International education based on active learning. Students learn by doing, by experimenting, by investigation both on their own initiative and in groups. It develops competences for real life, developing skills in entrepreneurship, creativity, communication, empathy and open mindedness.

SEK-Catalunya is the only school in Catalonia offering all 3 International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes. Can you explain more about the IB and the difference between the programmes? 
The IB is a very holistically based education philosophy.  It looks at the whole child within the academic sphere and not just at individual subjects.  Learning styles and learner profiles are analysed by all students so that they understand themselves and how they learn. It encourages students of all ages to think critically and challenge assumptions and
to develop independently of government and national systems. Incorporating quality practice from research and a wide range of other global schools encourages students of all ages to consider both local and global contexts and in doing so helps develop multilingual students.

Do you also offer the National Baccalaureate programme to students? 
Students have a choice for the final 2 years of study to do either the National Baccalaureate or the International Baccalaureate.

What languages are taught at the school? 
SEK Catalunya is trilingual.  English, Spanish and Catalan. English being the dominant language. Also from year 5 in Primary School we also offer French and German.

The school is located outside of Barcelona close to Montseny Nature Park. How do students benefit from being within a beautiful natural environment? 
With our own extensive woodland behind the main campus which then connects directly to pathways that lead directly into the Montseny we are able to offer extended outdoor programmes which include mountain biking, rock climbing, ziplining, trail walking, running and cross country running.  We are a Duke of Edinburgh Official Centre and we also offer courses in outdoor education from Year 5 in Primary as a precursor to the DofE. In addition to the Sports Education that uses the great outdoors,  teachers frequently take Science classes, Social Sciences and even language and maths classes out into this outdoor environment simply to benefit from the stimulae that the students feel by coming out of the traditional classroom.

How are New Technologies incorporated into the curriculum? 
New technologies are incorporated at all stages of the school both through the Curriculum and as Extra Curricular activities.  In Infants students begin working with  robotics, and iPads in the classroom. In Primary in our design and technology area ‘Makerspace’ they work with  technical lego, drones, Arduino robotics, iPads and laptops, 3D printing, Microsoft and Mac computers and computers (BOYD in 5th and 6th). In secondary the same continues but includes programming and Design and Tech as a Curriculum subject.

SEK Educational Group offers pupils the chance to spend six months or a full academic year abroad. How do pupils benefit from this cultural and linguistic immersion? 
Students can do 1, 2 or all 3 terms at our schools in Dublin, Ireland for English Language Immersion or at our school in The French Alps for French.  Students have the comfort factor of finding many things to be very familiar when they arrive because they are in a SEK environment. However, being away from their parents for an extended period of time develops their sense of independence to a whole new level.  In these environments they will speak English or French (depending on the school) 24/7.  The timetable is made up of classroom and fun activities which will push the students academically, linguistically and culturally.  This immersion brings about a rapid and deeper knowledge of the 2nd language.  Vocabulary is extended far beyond that which students would traditionally use in a classroom, and children’s confidence to use that language even in difficult situations grows exponentially.  Many of our students go with the intention of staying for just 1 term and this often ends up being extended for a second trimester  or indeed for the whole school year.

You also offer ESO and Baccalaureate pupils the chance to take part in the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. How many students do this and what activities does it entail? 
The Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award is the world’s leading youth achievement award and comprises four elements: volunteering; physical – such as improving in sport, dance or fitness; developing practical and social skills; and an expedition.  At SEK Catalunya all students in ESO/MYP years are offered the programme as part of the sports curriculum but it is not compulsory. Students will focus 2 hours every fortnight, and go out on expedition at least once during a term.  Around half of each year group usually opt to participate.  Once students reach Diploma level they opt for DofE as an extra curricular activity and activities become more intense as often students at this stage are more focused on the award for a specific reason such as  International University Entry and have opted to do it and are working to higher awards.

SEK Education Group offers numerous scholarships. How can students apply for these? 
Scholarship forms are available either directly from school or downloadable from our school webpage along with instructions of what other supporting documents need to be submitted.   There are 2 scholarships that apply each year.  The first for an existing SEK Catalunya Student for excellence and the second for non SEK  students either national or international  to study the IB Diploma.  All forms are submitted to the scholarship committee in Madrid who also make the decision as to who receives the award.

How do you reinforce a sense of community within the school? 
We reinforce a sense of community through the IB programmes as all have community links built into them. At MYP level there is a community project with a local retirement residence. AT DP level we have a CAS (community action service) programme which is a compulsory part of MYP that students have to complete to get their MYP certification. Plus the annual SEK Business Expo, plus SEKMUN. We also have various charity events throughout the year for local and international causes. From September 2018 we are introducing an ECO/Circular Economy / Environmental programme to enhance community links.

Describe the school in 3 words: Internationalism, Inclusive , Solidarity

Find out more about International schools in Catalonia 

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