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Students Travel to Art of Liverpool

A level Art students outside the Tate Liverpool.

33 A level Art students sampled the cultural delights of Liverpool during a trip to visit two prestigious galleries on Monday 21 January. As part of their research for a project entitled ‘Inside and Outside’, the students explored the Tate Liverpool, which exhibits British and international modern and contemporary art, and the Walker Art Gallery, which houses art in a variety of media from the 13th century onwards.

The Walker Art Gallery has a large collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, the John Moores prizewinners, and exhibitions from artists such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh and David Hockney. The Tate Liverpool was showing a solo exhibition from Alex Katz, as well as an ever-evolving ‘Constellations – Highlights from the Nation’s Collection of Modern Art’ display showcasing work by household names in sculpture, painting, photography and installation art including Jasper Johns and L.S. Lowry. The ‘Op Art in Focus’ exhibition allowed students to experience works by leading figures in this area such as Bridget Riley. The pieces on display included an installation of Jim Lambie’s Zobop, which covered the gallery floor with vibrant patterns, as you can see from the photograph below. Staff at the Tate Liverpool involved our students in engaging activities including a talk about some of the pieces on display.

Art student Jessica Eaton said: ‘The Liverpool Tate and Walker museums excited both the exploration of modern concepts and the extravagance of historical idealisation. A very enjoyable and insightful trip.’

(posted 23 January 2019)

Students Placed with World-Class Universities

Back row from left to right: mentors Mark Anderson and Marie-Claire Keddie, students Sean Carey, Omar Valeinis, Maia Hall, mentors Kitty Graham and Chris Cox.
Front row from left to right: students Michael Heaney, Diana Bestwish-Tetteh and Grace Scanlon.

Students in the college’s Enhancing Excellence group have yet again reaped the rewards of all their hard work, sharp focus and determined motivation, backed by the support and advice of their subject teachers and Enhancing Excellence mentors.

Seven of these students have been fortunate enough to receive conditional places at Oxford and Cambridge University colleges. Another 30 have received offers, or are waiting to hear, from other universities in the worldwide top 30, such as Imperial College London, King’s College London, the University of Edinburgh, and UCL (University College London). We are immensely proud of these students and the diligence that each of these places represents.

This year, too, an unusual number (eight) of our Cambridge hopefuls were ‘pooled’. In other words, the interviewing tutors considered them worthy of a place at Cambridge but could not fit them into the successful cohort. So near and yet so far… but some of these students are already thinking of reapplying next year!

Student nameHigh SchoolA levelsOxford or CambridgeDegree course offered
Diana Bestwish TettehAbbey Grange Church of England AcademyArt, Chemistry, English Literature, PoliticsOxfordEnglish
Maia HallAbbey Grange Church of England AcademyArt, English Literature, Film Studies, FrenchOxfordEnglish
Grace ScanlonCorpus Christi Catholic CollegeBiology, English Literature, SpanishOxfordEnglish
Isla GerrardWoodkirk AcademyBiology, Law, Psychology, Extended Project QualificationOxfordLaw
Sean CareyCardinal Heenan Catholic High SchoolBiology, Computer Science, Maths, Further MathsCambridgeComputer Science
Michael HeaneyCorpus Christi Catholic CollegeEnglish Literature, History, LawCambridgeEnglish
Omar ValeinisCorpus Christi Catholic CollegeEconomics, Maths, Further Maths, PhysicsOxfordEngineering
(posted 21 January 2019)

MBE for Kayak Champion Notre Dame Alumna

Notre Dame staff cheered at the news of an MBE awarded to ex-student Claire O’Hara.

Claire attended Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School before studying at Notre Dame, then progressing to Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett University) where she obtained a BA Honours degree in Sport and Recreation Development.

Claire started kayaking with Leeds Canoe Club in 1996 and continued with the sport throughout her time at college. While studying at Leeds Metropolitan University, she was captain of the Kayak Club, and in 2003 received a Carnegie Sports Scholarship in recognition of her talents and dedication. By that point, she had already started kayaking at a competitive level, and made the British Freestyle Kayak Team in 2006.

Since then, Claire’s international kayaking career has gone from strength to strength. As it states on her website, ‘Clare is the most successful female freestyle paddler of all time, winning a combined eight World Championships! She has paddled all across the UK and Europe and in the USA, Canada, Norway, Uganda, New Zealand, Australia and Nepal. Claire is the current World Champion in Freestyle Kayak and Squirt Boat Kayak and holds the world record for the highest competitive female scores in both disciplines of the sport.’

From 2009, while competing with the British Freestyle Kayak Team, Claire squeezed in a part-time role as the Enhancement Coordinator at Notre Dame, a post that she held for 4 years.

Her website states that: ‘Through her achievements Claire is keen to motivate other young people to stay active, follow their goals and dreams, and strive to be the best they can be.’ When news of her MBE, awarded for ‘services to canoeing’, was announced during a staff briefing at the start of January 2019, a spontaneous round of applause rang out across the staff room. We’d like to congratulate Claire and wish her all the best: we couldn’t be more pleased for her.

To find out more about Claire, please visit her website:

(posted 18 January 2019)

Sky’s the Limit After Level Two Launch

Students rebranding Notre Dame during a workshop at the University Centre, Leeds City College.

At Notre Dame we’ve recently launched a mentoring programme for our level two students. These students enrol with us to re-take GCSE English or Maths alongside other level 2 qualifications, enabling them to progress onto level 3 study after a year.

The mentoring programme is a collaborate project organised and run by our NCOP HE Progression Officer and Work Experience Coordinator. NCOP (the National Collaborative Outreach Programme) and Go Higher West Yorkshire are working with Notre Dame to encourage and support progression onto Higher Education. The aim of this mentoring programme is to raise the aspirations of level two students through a combination of workshops, work experience, and visits to further and higher education providers, all supported by positive role models from targeted local organisations who will act as mentors.

The programme launched on Thursday 13 December with a visit to the University Centre at Leeds City College. On arrival, our students took part in a workshop with guest mentors: Notre Dame alumna Catherine Bardsley, who is the co-founder of Cloudtrainer, and University of Leeds Senior Student Ambassador Tom Smith. The workshop focused on a discussion about our students’ values, motivations and potential career paths. This was followed by a graphic design and illustration session, exploring the concept of identity. Our students considered their own personal branding, examining the factors that make them who they are before creating individual logos. During the final part of the morning, our students were given an overview of the higher education courses on offer at the University Centre, and the progression routes from them. They also had the opportunity to meet three students currently studying there.

After a short lunchbreak, our students were set a competitive challenge, working in small groups to consider the branding of Notre Dame and what the college means to them. With the support of staff and mentors, and utilising their learning from earlier in the day, they redesigned the college logo to create a new Notre Dame brand. The day ended with each group of students presenting their ideas.

Our students engaged with all the activities, which were enjoyed by everyone, including staff and mentors.

Notre Dame alumna Catherine Bardsley said: ‘I was very impressed with the group as a whole: how they listened and interacted with one another and everyone who came in to speak and work with them throughout the day. I thought the ideas, creativity, teamwork and support that was shown, throughout the day but particularly in the last session, was great.’

Current student Cristian added: ‘I enjoyed giving the presentation the most even though I am never confident talking around people.’

All in all, this was an excellent start to what promises to be a highly beneficial and varied programme, another string to Notre Dame’s bow when it comes to the excellent pastoral and careers support we provide for our students.

(posted 14 January 2019)

Oxbridge Applicants’ Excellence Enhanced!

Pictured above are the English eight!

Students from Notre Dame’s English Department have been particularly successful this year, with eight students invited to interview for a single or joint honours English course. This high success rate is the result of the students’ hard work but is also thanks to our outstanding Enhancing Excellence Programme, a year-long suite of activities offered by a committed and experienced team of staff. The aim of the programme is to encourage and support students in their applications to Russell Group universities including Oxbridge as well as giving additional help to students who wish to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary science. The activities focus on developing students’ skills beyond the confines of their subject syllabi. 

All of our Oxbridge applicants, and the other students taking part in the programme, have: been part of weekly discussion groups, delivered individual and group presentations, visited universities, attended a conference at Notre Dame led by representatives from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and received rigorous personal statement and interview preparation support. The WAMS (Widening Access to Medical School) team from the University of Leeds have also visited college twice to deliver sessions on how to present oneself at medical and dental interviews, and a very enjoyable mock MMI (multiple mini interview: the type used by many universities in recent years, especially medical departments).

Student Betty McDermott said of the programme that: ‘Enhancing Excellence is a great way to grow and be challenged intellectually. It gave me an incredible opportunity to be surrounded with fellow students fascinated by the same things I was. All the teachers involved in the programme gave me essential support during what can easily become an arduous process. I felt like they really understood everything I was going through, and how difficult and daunting applying to Oxbridge can feel. The mock interview I was given was a great way to gauge how I was doing in terms of my preparation, and definitely helped to remove some of the nerves I had. The interview was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. Though it was frightening in the moment, it was incredible to feel like I’d really been pushed intellectually. It was also really nice to get to talk to fellow applicants in the common rooms beforehand. One of the most important things that I learned from Enhancing Excellence is how much I enjoy being surrounded by passionate people like myself. It introduced me to new topics and ideas that I may not have been exposed to otherwise.’

Student Megan Hickes added: When I first came to Notre Dame, I was not the type of person who found voicing their thoughts very easy. However, the EE group made me realise that articulating your opinion to others is one of the best ways to learn and develop your ideas. The support I have received from my teachers throughout this process has been second to none. From mock interviews to hours spent on my personal statement and last minute emails, they were always challenging but exceptionally helpful. Not only were their doors always open to myself and the other Oxbridge applicants whenever we needed guidance, but their advice and knowledge on English Literature will stay with me beyond Notre Dame. I would not have been able to realise my potential without them.’

In addition to mock interviews by staff (special mention should go to Dr Mark Anderson and Dr Nick Sykes who undertook copious numbers of them), we’re extremely grateful to Dr George Herring who gave mock interviews – and invaluable advice – to nine of our Oxbridge hopefuls. While our upper sixth interviewees nervously await news from their prospective Oxbridge colleges, the Enhancing Excellence Programme for our lower sixth students is well underway.

Celebrated as the season to be jolly, December is also the season for Oxbridge interviews, and 2018 was no exception. Throughout the month, Notre Dame students travelled to the dreaming spires of Oxford and Cambridge Universities to attend interviews for a variety of degree courses.

(posted 14 January 2019)

Celebrating the Christmas Story: Nativity to Epiphany

Our students re-enacted the nativity scene.

In the last week of the autumn term, the Notre Dame community celebrated the end of Advent and the coming of Christmas during our student assemblies. Each day, our staff and students retold the nativity story using a combination of readings, enacted scenes, and a very special guest: a young baby brought in for the occasion by a member of college staff currently on maternity leave.

Our students were fully involved in each service, with volunteers taking the roles of the Holy Family and the three wise men, in addition to playing the piano and singing beautifully. This year, our nativity incorporated a reflection on the plight of refugees across the world, who may also have found ‘no room at the inn’.

Throughout December, tutor groups had been collecting food and household items to donate to a chosen charity, and at the end of each assembly, our students took every box of donations up on stage. At Notre Dame, we greatly value this annual charitable tradition of ours, as it helps students to understand part of the underlying ethos of the college: gratitude for what we have and for what we can share with others.

College staff also had the opportunity to celebrate the season by attending an Advent service with past staff and governors, and a carol service on the last day of term. The staff choir, led by Head of History Mr Tom Dixon, did a sterling job of leading the assembled people in singing familiar Christmas carols.

Music also greeted staff and students on their return to Notre Dame after the Christmas break. Spanish tutor Mrs Chary Gonzalez-Latham serenaded those attending assemblies with an Epiphany carol, before explaining about different celebrations of Epiphany in different countries. The Catholic church celebrates Epiphany on January 6, which is the date when the three wise men presented baby Jesus with symbolic gifts: gold to represent his regal status, frankincense for immortality and myrrh as a symbol of his mortal life. It is at this point that the baby Jesus was revealed to the gentiles, which is where the festival gets its name: epiphany means ‘the manifestation of a divine being’ or the moment of a great revelation.

One of our special guests attending a nativity assembly.

(posted 10 January 2019)

Industry Leaders Reveal Digital Future

On Thursday 13 December, eight high-profile companies from the digital sector gave up their time to tell our students about future roles in their businesses.

More than 160 students – mainly from computer science, IT and business classes – attended the Industry Leaders event to find out more about routes into a variety of careers. Notre Dame’s IT suite and IT classrooms became a digital hub for the day, playing host to a carousel of interactive and inspiring activities which enabled our students to gain first-hand knowledge from people at the cutting edge of technological development. The event was organised as a joint venture with Ahead Partnership, a social enterprise which works to bring employers and students together.

Highlights of the event included the energetic presentations delivered by Jet2, BJSS and PwC, with an additional benefit of the day being the details given by each company of how their business was built up, and how the attending members of staff came to be in their current roles.

The companies involved were:

  • ARUP – ‘an independent firm of designers, engineers, architects, planners, consultants and technical specialists working across every aspect of today’s built environment.’
  • BJSS – ‘the UK’s leading privately-owned it and business consultancy.’
  • Branswer – a content creation platform.
  • Cooperative Innovations – a game design studio specialising in virtual & augmented realities.
  • Jet2 – a leading airline and holiday business.
  • PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) – a multinational professional services network.
  • Telefonica – a market leadership in communication networks.
  • Xiros – pioneering medical devices from concept to creation.

IT and computer science tutor, Mr Steve Johnston said the event was: ‘Thoroughly enjoyable, with a solid selection of top businesses for our students to interact with.’

IT Student Amelia Coolican added: ‘I liked being able to meet various different companies from different industry backgrounds, all in one session.’

(posted 20 December 2018)

Politics Society Presents a Preponderance of Politicians

What a time to be a politics student! Never-ending Brexit debates, a plethora of resignations, votes of no confidence, and that was just last week! Notre Dame’s outstanding politics department, aka Head of Department Mr Allan Clifford and teacher Dr Kevin Warnes, have kept students very much in the thick of it by inviting a succession of local politicians into college. This half term alone, our staff and students have quizzed:

Students made the most of the opportunity to question these members of parliament on a range of topics including: Brexit (no surprise there); the current state of the UK government; the root of their political allegiances; their views on employment rights, the environment, and potential investments in Leeds as part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’; and – less predictably – their favourite colour.

Politics teacher Dr Kevin Warnes said: ‘The students love their face-to-face encounters with all our visiting MPs and keep them on their toes with tip-top questions. And we really appreciate the way so many of our representatives give up their time to come in to meet us at Notre Dame.’

Further guest appearances from MP’s are planned over the coming months to ensure fair representation across a variety of political parties, and to continue the development of our students’ understanding of the UK government in this time of potential political metamorphosis.

Students with Stuart Andrew MP.

Students with Richard Burgon MP.

Students with Alec Shelbrooke MP.

Students with Rachel Reeves MP.

(posted 19 December 2018)

Look North Looks to Notre Dame

Keen-eyed Look North viewers will have spotted our A level Politics students during a news item on the evening of Wednesday 12 December. We were approached by the BBC to provide a variety of viewpoints on the Brexit leave/remain debate, and our students accomplished this with their usual confidence, clarity and candour. Politics teacher Dr Kevin Warnes also made an appearance, thanking the UK government for keeping our politics students entertained!


A level Politics Student Will Taylor making his views clear.


Politics students debating Theresa May’s future as leader of the Conservative Party.

(posted 13 December 2018)

An Audience with Anna Hall: Social Justice-Driven Documentary Maker

On Monday 10 December, students from the NCOP Future Media programme and the Notre Dame student newspaper had the privilege of listening to Anna Hall talk about her career as one of the country’s most successful freelance documentary makers.

In 1997, a few years after gaining a degree in Literature, Anna won the Priz Italia (a prestigious international TV and radio award) for an ITV documentary about the families of the Dunblane victims entitled ‘Dunblane: Remembering our Children’. Anna’s passion for social justice has been the driving force behind much of her work and she has won many more awards for gritty documentaries about deeply controversial and sensitive subjects. For example, ‘Edge of the City’ (2004) is her film about child sex grooming in Bradford and in ‘The Hunt for Britain’s Sex Gangs’ (2013) Anna negotiated unprecedented access to follow a live police investigation over a period of three years. In her more recent films ‘Catching a Killer: The Search for Natalie Hemming’ and ‘Behind Closed Doors’, Anna gives an extraordinary insight into domestic abuse: a crime that continues to take the lives of two women every week in Britain.

Over the years, her work has shone a light on notoriously difficult issues, giving a voice to Britain’s most vulnerable. In addition to helping prevent further abuse of children and women, her work has resulted in significant improvements to the judicial system when interviewing vulnerable victims.

Our students were deeply moved and inspired by Anna’s story which provided them with many ideas about how to carve out their own career as a freelance journalist. Upper sixth student Oliver Gower watched ‘Behind Closed Doors’ two years ago and couldn’t believe he was sitting in the same room as the director. He said: ‘Anna taught us that with basic knowledge of filming and editing software and – of course – dedication and vision, you can create your own career path in the media, and even bring about social change. It was an incredible experience!’

You can find out more about Anna’s work here:

(posted 12 December 2018)