From education to employment

Local partnerships help young people to prepare for careers in digital arts

Local partnerships help young people to prepare for careers in digital arts

Students at ACS International School Hillingdon, based in West London, have embarked on a world-first further education course, in collaboration with key players in the film industry: the International Baccalaureate (IB) Career-related Programme (CP) in Digital Arts.

Throughout the unique two-year course, working towards a personal portfolio, 16-18-year-old students are completing modules in animation, 3D modelling, game design, visual effects and computer programming.

ACS Hillingdon has long been a partner to the UK film industry and, through the new CP Digital Arts course, students are also learning from industry specialists and mentors, including experts from the nearby Pinewood Studios, the creators of Hollywood films such as the James Bond, Star Wars and Jurassic Park franchises. Courses they are taking and skills they are developing through Pinewood Studios include Screenwriting, Film Production, Set Design, VFX and Animation and Costumes and Make Up.

Commenting on the benefits of working with industry partners, Andy Groark, the CP Digital Arts Course Leader, said: “A big complaint amongst students and teachers alike is that, while academically sound, many further education courses do not adequately prepare young people for the real-life future world of work – students leave school full of facts and knowledge, but with no real idea of how they can apply them.

“In my experience, there’s no one better placed to teach young people about the realities of the workplace, than the people working in it already. Digital arts is such a hands-on industry and it is critical that students who are hoping to secure jobs in this field are able to gain practical experiences. So, while it’s important that they can practise and refine their skills in the classroom, they also need lots of opportunities to put them into practise and discover what the real possibilities and applications are and what skills they might need to develop to get where they want to go.”

David O’Regan, General Manager – Creative Media Skills at Pinewood Studios, adds:

“This is a unique opportunity for young people at ACS Hillingdon to come together and authentically learn creative media skills at the heart of the industry. By being tutored in small groups, and engaging with individuals who have worked on some of the biggest productions witnessed at the cinema, students will have the chance to learn, develop, and practise life-long skills that are fit for the future.”  

ACS Hillingdon offers a high quality international curriculum to its students aged 4-18. In place of A Levels, students can opt to study the IB’s Diploma Programme (DP) or Career-related Programme, Advanced Placement (AP) courses or the US High School Diploma.

Mike, a student who chose to study at ACS Hillingdon due to CP Digital Arts, describes what attracted him to the course:

“It’s a really interesting course; we’re doing a lot of things that you don’t usually get to do in the classroom and which I’m personally interested in. Even before the course, I was really into game design and animation, but I didn’t have a way to further my skills and didn’t have any idea of how I could build a career based on it.

I did GCSEs at my previous school and I could have gone onto A Levels doing art and such, but the opportunity to work within the field of animation and learn from people actually in the industry interested me enough to entirely move away from the British education system and pursue the IB instead.”

ACS Hillingdon’s CP Digital Arts course is designed to build the qualities students need to secure, and prosper in, a wide range of 21st century careers. Helping them to understand the ethical dilemmas many people face in the workplace, students are required to complete a reflective project which explores, in depth, an ethical dilemma associated with an issue from their career-related studies.

The IB is a world-renowned curriculum provider and the CP’s sister course, the DP, is a highly regarded, academically-rigorous qualification. CP students are required to take a minimum of two DP courses, which are each approximately equivalent to an A Level, and therefore are able to gain real-life experience in their field of interest, while building a solid academic foundation which will enable them to secure places at top universities in the UK and around the globe. 

Andy Groark, adds: “There are many pathways that can prepare young people for their future careers. Our CP Digital Arts course is designed as a stepping stone for students who have clear career goals in the industry. And, for those students who are not quite sure what career they wish to pursue, but know they enjoy coding, animation, game development and visual effects, and want a rigorous qualification that will open doors for them at some of the best universities in the UK and internationally, it is a fantastic further education option that prepares students to be both academically and career-ready, no matter where they go next.”

To find out more about ACS Hillingdon’s CP Digital Arts course, please visit: or watch this video:

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