A Birmingham independent school has become the first in the country to completely scrap A Levels in favour of a diploma course.

From September, the teaching of A-levels will cease and all sixth form qualifications will be replaced by the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma at King Edward’s School in Edgbaston.

The school said the radical step of scrapping A-levels was taken following “long-held concerns” about the content and challenge provided by A-levels.

Under the new diploma, pupils at the fee-paying boys’ school will study six compulsory subjects as well as an extended essay project.

The two-year IB also includes 180 hours of creativity, action, service – which can include volunteering and sports – which makes up part of pupils’ final mark.

Chief Master John Claughton said: “This is clearly very important and exciting news for us.

“After three years of exploration and planning, it is the final step. During those three years we have come to believe that the IB diploma will provide a much greater challenge and considerably more breadth for our pupils. This, we are certain, will equip them better for life at university and beyond.

“The ethos of the IB diploma, which is international and encourages both activity and independence, fits well with the school’s aims to provide an educational experience that is the richest, most diverse and most exciting possible.”

King Edward’s is one of a growing number of schools across the UK offering the diploma and has this week been granted status as an IB World School by the International Baccalaureate Organisation.

Latest figures show a 600 per cent rise in schools offering the diploma as an alternative to A-levels over the past ten years, and the first examinations will take place at King Edward’s in 2012.

King Edward’s joins a total of 210 British schools now offering the diploma, the vast majority of which offer it alongside traditional A-level courses.

Last year the percentage of A grades at A-level was a record 76.2 per cent a record, and this year 26 boys have been made offers from Oxford and Cambridge, the highest figure for almost a decade.

Applications for entry at 11+ are very strong, up by 20 per cent from last year and up by more than 60 per cent since 2005.

The move to the IB diploma from September also follows the school adoption of the IGCSE, a qualification based on an end-of-year exam rather than coursework, in the majority of subjects for GCSE-level students.

“The move to the IB diploma has also been prompted by long-held concerns about the content and challenge provided by A-levels,” added Mr Claughton.

John Lamb, chairman of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the move.

He said: “I think adopting the international approach to schooling is very good news. There have been proposals about for years to establish this sort of diploma in Birmingham schools. This is a very radical move especially because King Edward’s is one of the best performing schools in the country.

“This sort of qualification will give students the opportunity to get a better experience in the world and I know any business would be happy to employ someone like that.