Southbank International’s Grade Leader & CAS Co-ordinator Louise Carey on how the IB programme’s ‘Creativity, Activity, Service’ principles help students develop as citizens

Sitting at the core of the IB Diploma Programme, CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) is the counterbalance to a demanding course of study. It guides students by helping them to avoid focusing solely on grades. It encourages them to maintain a healthy life balance, look after their wellbeing and develop as well-rounded individuals.

The students here at Southbank International are incredibly imaginative and creative, and with strong social consciences. They’re ambitious when it comes to choosing how they can get involved in all of the CAS strands, including how to give back through service. After the restrictions of recent years, it is great to see a revival of connections with the local area, and the authentic and positive impact of our students’ work.

We aim to centre CAS service around what is going on in the world currently. On a local level, we have sought to draw attention to the ongoing cost of living crisis, for example by finding ways to support the homeless – important to us as an inner-city school in London. Recently, students fundraised for St Mungo’s and Centrepoint. The latter charity specifically caters for young people on the streets (something that particularly resonated with our students).

“CAS encourages our students to understand the challenges and needs of others, and to feel good about helping – even in small ways”

Our students have volunteered in nearby soup kitchens and charity stores, and learnt how to cook healthy and transportable meals, delivering them to unhoused people in the local area. They have worked in community gardens, collected rubbish around Regent’s Park and organised clothes and coat drives. They have also spent time at The Children’s Book Project, sorting and sending off books.

In a recent CAS workshop on the cost-of-living crisis, I collaborated with an economics teacher who helped students to understand inflation. In the follow-up session, we noted the increased impact of rising inflation, evidenced by recent industrial disputes. Students decided they were able to take action themselves through the service element of advocacy by writing letters and marketing via their own social media channels. This meant, for instance, they could lend their support to nurses on strike for the first time in 100 years. As a group, we also identified The Trussell Trust and FoodCycle as valuable organisations to work with to help make a difference for those affected by food poverty in the local area.

Southbank International School on service and citizenship
Southbank International says CAS triggers social conscience and connects young people with their sense of purpose

My colleagues and I see time and time again just how beneficial the service strand of CAS is for our students at Southbank. It helps them to develop relationships, both at school and within the wider community. CAS encourages them to understand the challenges and needs of others, and to feel good about helping – even in small ways – to ease the weight of problems. It is part of the ethos of the school to develop that social conscience and to trigger connection and purpose.

Many of our students are international, and some are very recent arrivals in London. By connecting them with the local community in the very meaningful ways that CAS offers, we can also help them familiarise themselves with their city by making a positive impact – and feel a sense of belonging.

Through the CAS programme we want to plant seeds of interests, passions, habits and routines that might continue for many years after our students graduate, so that as they grow and enter the world of work, they can carry these forward.

Southbank International School

Further reading: School partnerships, adding value on all sides