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Armistice Day Commemorated

Gemma Seed plays ‘Last Post’ on the trumpet.

From 5 to 9 November, Notre Dame assemblies had an air of respectful solemnity as our community commemorated Armistice Day. This marks the anniversary of the signing of the armistice between the Allies of the First World War and Germany, bringing about the cessation of hostilities at 11 o’clock on the 11th of November, 1918.

This year we are commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War so it seemed only fitting that 17 of our students should stand before their peers to recite from the diaries, letters and poems of soldiers, nurses, doctors and veterans who experienced it first-hand.

The assemblies were led by students Maia Hall and Matthew Gerard, who focused particularly on the stories of soldiers and nurses from the West Yorkshire region. They brought our attention to the Pals Battalions commonly formed in the north of England. These were made up of men who enlisted with their friends and neighbours, so they could serve together rather than being allocated to random battalions. Their survival rates were shockingly low. Most of the Leeds Pals, along with those from many other Pals regiments, died on July 1 1916: the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It’s thought that, of the 900 men in the Leeds Pals, 750 died, just a handful of the estimated 19,240 British soldiers killed on that day alone.

Our students also told us about Nellie Spindler, a Wakefield-born nurse who volunteered to join the Imperial Military Nursing Service. Nellie was posted to Belgium in July 1917, where she was killed by a blast at a hospital a few miles from the front line near Ypres. She is the only woman buried with full military honours at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium.

Of course, the assemblies commemorated all those fallen, including the soldiers from India, New Zealand, Australia and Canada who fought, as well as the Chinese workforce that supported the Allies.

Our students read from eyewitness reports of gas attacks and recounted the effects of exposure to gas, even for soldiers who successfully fitted the helmets provided. They also quoted Notre Dame students humbled by a recent visit to Tyne Cot in Belgium, the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war.

Towards the end of each assembly, we heard the words of Harry Patch, the last surviving veteran to have fought on the Western Front. Before his death in 2009, Harry spoke about his experience of fighting at Passchendaele. When he went back to the site of the battle to pay his respects to the fallen, he was quoted as saying that ‘war isn’t worth one life’.

Staff and students reflected on this during a two-minute silence which began each time with the playing of Last Post on the trumpet. Everyone then left the hall without speaking.


Thank you to the following students who gave up their time throughout the week to participate:

Introduction and continuity: Matthew Gerard and Maia Hall.

Last Post on the trumpet: Gemma Seed.

Readings: Hannah Boyle, Charlotte Lewis, Lydia Earl, Saskia Wood, Thomas Mason, Aaron Sangha, Megan Hickes, Ella Gould, Diana Tetteh, James Burton, Jessica Easton, Jake Archdale, Caitlin Pawson and Betty McDermott.

The poems read included Philip Larkin’s MCMXIV, To Germany by Charles Hamilton Sorley, In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, Siegfried Sassoon’s Attack, and Wilfred Owen’s iconic Dulce Et Decorum Est.

Pictured above is the Notre Dame wreath, which has been present in our Armistice Day assemblies for the past 13 years. It has been laid at key sites of First and Second World War battles across France and Belgium by visiting Notre Dame staff and students as a symbol of our respect and gratitude.

(posted 9 November 2018)

Wealth of Events Celebrate our Rich Cultural Diversity

Students taking part in our cultural fashion show.

We had a whirlwind week of celebration here at Notre Dame as our staff and students took part in a variety of events to explore the plethora of cultural backgrounds within our community.

From 22 to 26 October, as part of our ongoing celebrations of diversity, we encouraged students to explore the identity of their peers during tutorials, invited a visiting speaker to our assemblies, and hosted a day of fabulous activities. The highlight of the week was an informative and engaging cultural show with a fantastic atmosphere of pride and celebration, organised by upper sixth business students.

To kick the week off, Tom Chigbo, the first ever black president of the students’ union at the University of Cambridge, talked to us about the importance of genuine engagement with the cultural history of our peers. He asked us to converse with our friends and colleagues about aspects of their identity such as country of origin, to seek points of connection between us, and gain a more in depth understanding of how we may all be influenced by our backgrounds.

At the end of the week, our upper sixth business students arranged and hosted a day of cultural events including a food market where students sampled cuisines from every continent. This team of young people had to present their plan for the day to our NCOP Officer in order to be given funding for their activities. On the day, students and staff wore national dress or clothing that represented their cultural heritage, painted their faces with national flags, and posed in our photo booth. In the afternoon, our main hall was packed out by students and staff attending the cultural show. They listened attentively to presentations about the customs of different countries and religions, as well as dancing, singing and cheering in response to music and performances from around the world. Also in the audience were key NCOP staff including the Leeds Project Manager, Alice Taylor, who thoroughly enjoyed the event.

Ms Ashton, the business tutor behind the student-led events, said: ‘We are so proud of the students’ achievements on this project, they have worked together as a team for the last seven weeks to plan and deliver an enjoyable event, bringing a wealth of cultural backgrounds together.’

Here at Notre Dame, we value the cultural and religious diversity of our students and staff, and recognise the richness this brings to our college. We have an ethos of tolerance and respect for the backgrounds and beliefs of others.

One corner of the busy food market.

Afro Beat Dancers.

Their audience!

A student playing the Vietnamese Zither.

(posted 7 November 2018)

Wear it Pink!

On Friday 19 October, our students and staff dressed in pink wigs, pink tutus, pink legwarmers and pink onesies to raise money for Breast Cancer Now, the UK’s largest breast cancer research charity.

A photo booth was set up with a variety of pink props provided for staff and students to use, and a competition held for the best pink outfit. Congratulations to student Kim Kim Phan and staff member Ms Ann Page, who were awarded prizes for being the best dressed.

As it says on the Breast Cancer Now website: ‘Right now, breast cancer is at a tipping point. More women are surviving. But more are being diagnosed than ever before. One in eight women in the UK will face breast cancer in their lifetime. And every 45 minutes, another woman dies from the disease. We’re going to change that.’

Thanks to the generosity of the Notre Dame community, who raised £55, we’re helping Breast Cancer Now to achieve their aim. To find out more about this charity, please visit

Pictured below are staff from the main office, including Ms Page on the right, and more of our fabulous students.

(posted 25 October 2018)

Praying the Rosary for Peace

Earlier this year, Notre Dame received a letter from the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), inviting us to take part in an international prayer for peace on Thursday 18 October.

Students and teachers around the world were encouraged to get involved with this initiative. The aim was to have a million students forming a peace chain in different international locations on the same day, to pray or wish for unity and peace on earth.

This prayer initiative first began in Venezuela in 2005 with a small group of parents and their children. They’d been inspired by the words of Saint Padre Pio, who said: ‘If a million children pray the Rosary together, then the world will change.’

In response to the invitation, Notre Dame’s multi-cultural and multi-faith community came together to make a human peace chain at 11 o’clock on 18 October. Staff and students from all faiths and none formed a circle in St Joseph’s Court, at the centre of our campus, and stood in silent and respectful contemplation for one minute. We were joined by many other schools across the Diocese of Leeds and beyond.

Mrs Catherine Herring, Head of RS at Notre Dame, said: ‘It felt really important to our Principal and staff for the Notre Dame community to stand together as a witness to our desire for peace and unity in our world.’

(posted 24 October 2018)

STEM Careers a Fair Fit for Students

The wide variety of careers available in science, technology, engineering and maths were showcased at our annual STEM Fair on Wednesday 17 October. Attended by the largest ever number of exhibitors, including both businesses and universities, the event ran from 12 to 2pm and was attended by students from all year groups. Careers on offer included accounting, chemical engineering, music technology, medicine, geotechnical engineering, cyber security, sporting event performance data collection, scientific research, and roles with the Merchant Navy!

Here at Notre Dame, we are keen to promote STEM-related degrees and careers to our students. There are many roles within these subject areas which our students may be unaware of, but which could be a perfect fit for their skills, qualities, and current studies. Also, in Yorkshire and the Humber, manufacturing is one of our largest sectors in terms of the most jobs currently available, and skilled construction is set to be a growth area during the next four years, so we feel it’s important for our students to be informed as to the opportunities available in these areas.

Head of Careers Mrs Anna Dickinson said: ‘The STEM fair was an excellent event organised by Vicky Pointing, one of our careers advisors at Notre Dame. There was a real buzz at the fair with students intrigued to find out more about careers and courses around Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. We would like to thank our external organisations for supporting the event and helping to raise the profile of STEM.’

Thank you to the following for giving up your time to speak to our students: the Universities of Bradford, York, Leeds, Leeds Beckett, and Huddersfield; BT; the Chartered Institute of Building; Jacobs; Leeds City Council; the Merchant Navy; Nuffield Trust; Apta; PwC; and Sedulo Leeds Ltd.

(posted 23 October 2018)

October Open Event: Welcome to Notre Dame!

Visitors at our open event on Saturday 13 October experienced the enthusiasm and dedication of our students and staff first-hand. From 9:30am to 1pm, the Notre Dame community came together to provide an insight into college life for both potential students and their parents or carers.

All teaching staff attended to provide as much information about course content, entry requirements, enrichment activities and progression routes as possible. This year, the largest number of Notre Dame students ever to volunteer for an open event took visitors on guided tours of the site, helped staff to hand out welcome packs, acted as ambassadors for their high schools, and provided a musical intermission in the hall. We were extremely proud of their contribution to the event and received many positive comments about their helpfulness.

Our principal, Justine Barlow, gave two addresses during the event, both to a packed out audience in the main hall. As well as explaining our Outstanding rating from Ofsted, and outlining our excellent exam results, Mrs Barlow talked about the fantastic pastoral support we offer our students, and the variety of extra-curricular, sporting and careers activities available. President of our Student Executive, Feras Abulula, took time out from his preparations for University of Oxford entrance exams to speak about his experience of Notre Dame and the reasons he chose to study here.

Around 3000 people attended the event, photos of which can be found below. This is some of the feedback our visitors provided:

‘We were very impressed with the whole set up and the knowledge of the pupils we spoke with. The passion the pupils and teachers alike had for their given subject was extremely reassuring. What a wonderful place.’

‘My daughter wanted to visit the college with a view to attending next year. I was quite sceptical because of the location and feared it would not be a great fit for her. Upon arrival we received a warm welcome by the student ambassadors who chatted with my daughter about their own experiences in the college. We also spoke in-depth with the tutors in the classes which my daughter showed interest in. The vast choice of study options is highly impressive, as is the equipment and study areas. My daughter left feeling enthused about her next steps and I left feeling confident that if she chooses Notre Dame she will be making an excellent choice.’

‘Perfect mix of Principal’s presentation, classroom and staff/student interaction. Great feel for the college and the chapel was a delight.’

‘My daughter and I travelled from Sussex predominantly to come to the open day. It wasn’t a waste of time. It was great to get a feel of the college and meet staff and pupils. All were professional, friendly and enthusiastic. We were both impressed by the opportunities and facilities that the college offers.’

‘We felt very welcomed by the staff and the students. There was always someone nearby to help or direct us. There were also plenty of people to talk to and ask questions of in each department. We came away having had a very positive and informed morning. Thank you very much!’

Parents and students who were unable to make this event would be very welcome to attend our open evening on Thursday 22 November from 4:30 to 7:30pm. Places can be booked online here. Booking is not compulsory but it helps us to offer you the best experience possible. We look forward to seeing you in November.

Visitors arriving at the gazebo on St Mark’s Avenue.

College Principal, Mrs Justine Barlow, addressing visitors in the hall.

A principal’s-eye view!

Staff on hand to answers questions in the Maths Department.

The Theatre Arts Department.

Student Executive president Feras Abulula explaining why he came to Notre Dame.

Visitors at reception with their information packs.

(posted 18 October 2018)

Cold Head, Warm Heart: Double Donation from Fabulous Student

Pictured above is fabulous upper sixth student Abbie Weaver, who has made valuable contributions to two charities after shaving her head on Friday 5 October. Not only has Abbie donated her hair to The Little Princess Trust (a charity that provides free, real hair wigs to children and young people who’ve lost their own through illness) but she’s also raised funds for St Gemma’s Hospice in memory of her grandmother, who was looked after there before – sadly – passing away in June 2018.

St Gemma’s Hospice cares for terminally ill people towards the end of their life. ‘They looked after my Grandma in a loving, caring environment and I want to give something back to them.’ Abbie said.
A former student of Corpus Christi Catholic College, Abbie was keen to raise as much as she could and set up a Just Giving page here. So far, she’s raised an outstanding £1,110! Donations would still be welcome.

Abbie received a lot of support from students and staff, and took a friend with her on the day. ‘My mum’s still coming round to the idea of me shaving my head! My hair will grow back though and I’m lucky I can choose whether I lose it – many people with cancer don’t get that choice.’

Abbie is pictured below prior to having her head shaved.

(posted 18 October 2018)

Mental Health Fair Helps to Stamp Out the Stigma

Wednesday 10 October was World Mental Health Day, which this year had the theme of ‘young people and mental health in a changing world’.

The Notre Dame community celebrated this date with a Mental Health Fair held during the students’ lunch hour. Invited along were Karma Nirvana, The Market Place, Teen Connect, The Key, Carers Leeds, St Anne’s Community Services, the Samaritans, and Women’s Health Matters. Our students got to see the range of support there is available in Leeds for anyone affected by a mental health issue. They were also able to take away goodies such as stress balls and awareness-raising wristbands.

In addition to the fair, a range of other activities were organised for students, including visiting speakers in assembly, themed tutorial sessions, and mental health first aid training. Assistant Principal Ms Lindsay Brook said: ‘This week, we have been updating our knowledge and awareness of mental health issues. Our aim is to stamp out the stigma around this topic.’

(posted 15 October 2018)

Wonder and Wander for English Students: Lancaster University and Wordsworth’s Lake District

A level English Literature students had the chance to visit Lancaster University and the Lake District from Thursday 4 to Friday 5 October.

The students’ stop off at Lancaster University allowed them to explore the campus and experience the Freshers’ Fair for new undergraduates. Student Adriana Doutaj said: ‘It was really interesting to see how Lancaster University is a campus that has the feel of a close community as all the accommodation and student facilities are situated within a beautiful 360-acre parkland.’

The students then travelled on to Hawkshead and Ambleside before taking a Wordsworth-themed tour of Dove Cottage, Rydal Mount and the Wordsworth Trust museum.

Dove Cottage became the home of William Wordsworth in 1799, after he saw it while on a walking tour of the Lake District. He wrote some of his most famous and well-loved poems while living there. He moved to Rydal Mount in 1814 and was there until his death in 1850.

While at Dove Cottage, the students attended a bespoke workshop on Romanticism by experts at the Wordsworth Trust, and were able to handle rare first editions such as Shelley’s Frankenstein as well as texts owned by Wordsworth himself.

Student Kieren Mason said: ‘I loved seeing the notes Wordsworth had made around his copy of Paradise Lost, and holding an £80,000 copy of a first edition of Keats’ poems was pretty mind-blowing!’

This trip was organised by our English Department and NCOP Officer.

(posted 10 October 2018)

Fundraising is a Piece of Cake

Students and staff crowded into the upper common room to get a slice of the action during our Macmillan Cancer Support Coffee Morning on Friday 28 September.

This event was organised by members of our Student Executive and had two main aims: to raise money for the charity and to challenge students with a Great British Bake Off style competition.

The goodies on offer included moist chocolate brownies, beautifully decorated cupcakes, and a fabulously presented layered strawberry sponge, festooned with chocolate covered strawberries.

Mrs Sandra Webster and Mrs Meena Riyat (CTEC Health & Social Care tutors) had the difficult task of tasting each entry to choose an overall winner. After great deliberation (and quite a lot of eating), the Star Baker award went to Jasmine Robertshaw for a delicious red velvet cake.

Macmillan Cancer aims to support people from the moment of diagnosis, enabling them to live as fully as possible. This was a cause that the Student Executive were keen to be involved with, so they signed up to Macmillan’s ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ Campaign. Kornelija Devialtovskyte, student Head of Events, said: ‘This was a fantastic opportunity to get our college community involved and start the year off giving to a good cause.’

So far the Notre Dame community has raised an impressive £165. This event is just one example of our student body instigating and engaging with charitable activities. Thanks to all the staff and students who gave up their time to bake, sell and eat, particularly students Luke Dixon, Kornelija Devialtovskyte, and Naib-Ur Rahman.

(posted 10 October 2018)