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Notre Dame Leads the Way with Social Mobility

College Principal Mrs Justine Barlow with our award.

On Thursday 13 June, Notre Dame’s Principal proudly received a social mobility award on behalf of the College.

This second place award was presented by the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) in recognition of the work we do. Our results and destinations data make us one of the highest achieving colleges in the country for disadvantaged students. As an inner city college, we are a diverse community. 42% of our students come from widening participation postcodes or are in receipt of financial support from college. Over half come from minority ethnic backgrounds. 15% have special educational needs or disabilities.

We achieve such excellent results using a variety of college-wide activities, including: regular staff training to address barriers to social mobility; close tracking of our students’ progress; an average of three visiting speakers per week from different employers and universities; a huge variety of extra-curricular activities including compulsory work experience for students on vocational courses; active promotion of university widening participation programmes; and a plethora of work-place visits, university tasters, and employer engagement opportunities offered through exclusive partnerships with high-profile companies like Addleshaw Goddard solicitors.

The impact of all these activities is clear: our A Level results for disadvantaged students are third nationally for any college with comparable numbers, and we have the highest progress scores in the country for disadvantaged students studying applied subjects. In terms of destinations, in September 2018 82% of our leavers progressed to higher education, compared to 61% nationally. A quarter of those progressed to a Russell Group institution, compared to less than 10% nationally. Equally as impressive is the fact that 70% of disadvantaged students from Notre Dame progressed to university, compared to 46% nationally.

It’s no surprise our Principal, Mrs Justine Barlow, looks so pleased in the photograph above. We really are doing our best by all our students. As Mrs Barlow says, ‘Social mobility is at the heart of what we do at Notre Dame. We aim to educate the whole person and achieve each individual’s full potential, while recognising the uniqueness of each student.’  

Notre Dame Leads the Way with Social Mobility

College Principal Mrs Justine Barlow with our award.

On Thursday 13 June, Notre Dame’s Principal proudly received a social mobility award on behalf of the College.

This second place award was presented by the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) in recognition of the work we do. Our results and destinations data make us one of the highest achieving colleges in the country for disadvantaged students. As an inner city college, we are a diverse community. 42% of our students come from widening participation postcodes or are in receipt of financial support from college. Over half come from minority ethnic backgrounds. 15% have special educational needs or disabilities.

We achieve such excellent results using a variety of college-wide activities, including: regular staff training to address barriers to social mobility; close tracking of our students’ progress; an average of three visiting speakers per week from different employers and universities; a huge variety of extra-curricular activities including compulsory work experience for students on vocational courses; active promotion of university widening participation programmes; and a plethora of work-place visits, university tasters, and employer engagement opportunities offered through exclusive partnerships with high-profile companies like Addleshaw Goddard solicitors.

The impact of all these activities is clear: our A Level results for disadvantaged students are third nationally for any college with comparable numbers, and we have the highest progress scores in the country for disadvantaged students studying applied subjects. In terms of destinations, in September 2018 82% of our leavers progressed to higher education, compared to 61% nationally. A quarter of those progressed to a Russell Group institution, compared to less than 10% nationally. Equally as impressive is the fact that 70% of disadvantaged students from Notre Dame progressed to university, compared to 46% nationally.

It’s no surprise our Principal, Mrs Justine Barlow, looks so pleased in the photograph above. We really are doing our best by all our students. As Mrs Barlow says, ‘Social mobility is at the heart of what we do at Notre Dame. We aim to educate the whole person and achieve each individual’s full potential, while recognising the uniqueness of each student.’  

(posted 25 June 2019)

Stairway to Heaven-ly Knitting

Thanks to the community spirit of our students and staff, Notre Dame’s chapel steps received a woolly makeover in June 2019.

College Counsellor Miss Charlotte Anderton runs a weekly knitting and crochet group for students. One of them, Scarlet Gale, asked to use their knitting skills to brighten up the steps leading to our PTE classrooms and the College chapel. Scarlet and their peers worked on a rainbow design that was bright and welcoming. Scarlet knitted all the rainbow bunting and their mother knitted the Notre Dame banner.

Miss Anderton said, ‘It took an entire lunchtime to assemble the bunting. The aim was for it to look like a rainbow following the route up the stairs to the chapel. Scarlet and I have had so many comments and messages about how lovely it looks.’


Scarlet Gale and their knitted creation.

Our thanks go to Scarlet, whose colourful contribution feels like a cheerful celebration of this core part of our college site.

(posted 24 June 2019)

Farewell to Level Two Students

Level two leavers in our chapel.

We said goodbye and good luck to our level two students on Friday 14 June. These students had enrolled on a one-year programme at Notre Dame but we’ll be seeing many of them again in September, when they begin level 3 applied courses or A levels here at college.

Thank you to all staff who made the last day for these students such a warm and celebratory experience. The students enjoyed their leavers’ assembly and engaged with their leavers’ mass in a quiet, reflective manner.

We wish them all the very best of luck, whatever they choose to do next.

(posted 21 June 2019)

Excellent by Design: Student Showcase

College Principal Mrs Justine Barlow admires the work of student Jai Mistry.
Pictured left to right are: Abhik Roy, Head of Design Mr Ian Granger, Ray Laybourn, Jai Mistry, Wilgrace Gerona, and Mrs Barlow.

A level Product Design students had the chance to showcase their work on Wednesday 22 May. The annual exhibition for this department took place from 5 to 6:30pm so that parents, staff and students would all have the chance to view the project pieces on display. Highlights included:

  • The chessboard and pieces created by Charlotte Jones using epoxy resin casting and low temperature pewter casting.
  • Ash Allen’s oak storage box for Dungeons and Dragons game pieces. The design includes sliding drawers and a resin lid for dice rolling with embedded timber sections.
  • Jai Mistry’s flat-pack record player and vinyl storage unit.

Mr Ian Granger, Head of Product Design, said, ‘We are extremely proud of the dedication and enthusiasm shown by students this year as they adapted to the new specification criteria. They have produced some outstanding prototypes with many moving features.’

Notre Dame’s Principal Mrs Justine Barlow also attended the event, and was very impressed with the quality and professionalism of the work produced.

Ash Allen’s oak storage box.
Chessboard and pieces created by Charlotte Jones.
(posted 11 June 2019)

Parting Sweet Sorrow for Upper Sixth Leavers

The Class of 2019 prepares to say goodbye.

Our upper sixth students left on a high note on Friday 24 May.

The leavers’ liturgy was full to bursting with music and prayer provided by our students. The highly talented Macy Loftus, Laureen Missidimbazi and Tamara Gaskin Henry opened the liturgy with a worship song, accompanied by Omaatla Phiri on the piano. Led by Joe Robinson, a small procession of students brought the cross, candles and flowers to the front of the hall. Hannah Boyle, Louis Hickling (and College Principal Mrs Justine Barlow) read passages from scripture beautifully.

The students also offered prayers of thanksgiving for all the experiences they had been blessed with at Notre Dame. These were illustrated by the various artefacts – such as sports and Lourdes shirts, books, flags and a giant globe – that made up the backdrop to the main stage. Both our Lay Chaplain Mr Andrew Sullivan and our College Principal spoke eloquently about the importance of being a community rooted in Catholic values.

Towards the end of the liturgy, all students had the opportunity to come forward and receive a blessing, while the staff choir gave a beautiful rendition of The Lord is my Shepherd. To close, Simran Athwal wowed her peers with her performance of Song of Thanksgiving.

After a short break, our students returned to the hall for their leavers’ assembly, to celebrate their time at Notre Dame. We congratulated the Student Executive team for all their efforts, and noted that they had raised a stunning £4945.63 over the past year. Each Head of Faculty awarded High Flyer and Rising Star Awards to students from their subject areas. We also recognised student resilience with three awards, and chose eight Notre Dame Legends, all nominated by staff (award winners are listed below).

Then came a musical interlude: students Simran Athwal and Christina Xaviour sang Stand by Me, and everyone joined in, creating one of the most heartfelt moments of the assembly. Students used their mobile phones as torches, swaying in unison, each point of light adding to the sense of community and belonging.

After a whistle-stop tour of the past year’s events, we moved on to the Student Awards, voted for by the students themselves. King and Queen of Notre Dame were Feras Abulula and Aimee Denton, with Aimee also receiving the award for Notre Dame’s most inspirational student. Before the assembly ended, the audience chose the best fancy dress outfit: Notre Dame’s two student spidermen.

Refreshments in the sunshine of St Joseph’s Court provided an excellent photo opportunity, as you can see from the pictures below. An email has been sent to all upper sixth students containing a link to photographs taken on the day.

Higher Flyer Award Winners for academic excellence

Omar Valeinis

Sean Carey

Yasmine Bridge

Macie Buchanan

Rising Star Award Winners for most improved student

Kerys Hall

Finn Rea

Thomas Chappell

Mine Cothay

Student Resilience Award Winners

Shakra Ahmed

Rene Rowe

Nelima Begum

International Student Award Winners

Miranda Chen

Anastassiya Bukova

Notre Dame Legends

Amie Jobarteh

Hannah Boyle

Janos Magyar

Louis Hickling

Emily Anslow

Sergejs Mezeckis

Emma Watson

Jo Parker

Student Awards

Most Likely to Become Famous: Christine Xaviour and Joseph Robinson

Couple Most Likely to Get Married: Matthew Peyton and Luke Dickinson

Snapchat Superstar: Seb Trujillo

Baby Face Award: Craig Baker

Award for Best-Dressed Students: Kasia Klekot and Sajib Miah

Ray of Sunshine Award: Khoirotun Daud

Most Inspirational Student Award: Aimee Denton

King and Queen of Notre Dame 2019: Feras Abulula and Aimee Denton

Students singing along to Stand by Me.
The nominees for best fancy dress.
Some of our talented singers.
The king and queen of Notre Dame.
(posted 3 June 2019)

Design Workshop Empowers Student Creativity

Notre Dame students busy developing their poster designs.

Creative students from across Notre Dame’s A level and BTEC subjects attended an inspirational design workshop at Leeds Arts University on Wednesday 22 May. The aim of the event was to support them with developing ideas for our Young and Powerful poster competition.

The poster competition, organised by NCOP Higher Education Progression Officer Miss Mary Owoo, is open until Monday 10 June. Our students have the choice of four topics for their poster entries: Be Active, Be Healthy; Wellbeing; Mental Health; and Young Power.

The workshop was full to the brim with opportunities for our students to explore and expand their creative ideas. They took part in a university-style ‘crit’ where they shared their initial research in small groups and gave each other feedback. Following this, Jenny Scannell from Leeds Arts University led our students through the basics of graphic design, providing them with a framework for developing their posters. Students then had the chance to
practice their newly learnt vocabulary by analysing a selection of mental health posters, including a set of new designs for the Samaritans by brand experts Spencer Du Bois.  

In the afternoon students took a tour of the university, which included the new library, print workshops, ceramics department, and photography studio. Student ambassadors from the Illustration and Visual Communications BA presented their work and gave our students tips on portfolio development. Our students spent the rest of their time developing design ideas, working with a range of media including paint, collage, typography, ink and drawing.

NCOP HEPO Mary Owoo commented, ‘It was a very enriching and mindful day that provided our students with the skills and opportunity to be imaginative and reflect on their own wellbeing.’

(posted 30 May 2019)

Business Students Enter PwC Dragon’s Den


Some of our students with the PwC dragons.

On Friday 17 May, 16 colleagues from professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers led a Dragon’s Den style challenge with 70 of Notre Dame’s A level Accounting, A level Business and CTEC Level 3 Business students.

Our students were put into small groups and given the challenge of creating a new business idea to solve problems relating to either health or wellbeing, the environment, or a problem faced by those in their local community. Making the most of this opportunity to impress a potential future employer, our students thought up a whole range of solutions from apps to support those suffering from loneliness or to solve communication issues in large organisations, to wearable tech to track fitness.

At the end of the session, each group presented their ideas to a panel of judges from PwC. After much deliberation, a winning team was selected. Congratulations to SRC (Study, Relax & Chill) whose team members were Will Harland, Masab Khan and Nathanael Tesfay. Their winning idea was a social network app for a college intranet that could put lonely students in touch with others who had similar interests in terms of studying, relaxing and leisure time.

Business teacher Ms Francesca Ashton said, ‘I’d like to say well done to all the students taking part. The staff from PWC were very impressed with the range of employability skills displayed, from critical thinking to excellent communication and team working.’

A rapt audience for PwC’s opening presentation.
One of our student teams presenting their business idea.
(posted 24 May 2019)

Codebreaking’s a Walk in Bletchley Park

Some of our students modelling military hats and caps from the codebreaking era.

As Notre Dame’s computing and maths students discovered during a visit on Wednesday 15 May, Bletchley Park is celebrated for two main reasons. Firstly as the home of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) during World War Two, and secondly as the birthplace of the information age.

During the war, Bletchley Mansion – and the now-famous wooden huts on the lawns of its Park – were used as a base for a variety of codebreaking operations. The aim was to decipher coded military messages, such as those sent using Enigma machines.

The codebreaking process would have been impossible if it wasn’t for the mathematical brilliance of the codebreakers, and the invention of machines like the Turing/Welchman Bombe and the world’s first electronic computer, Colossus (read more here).

For our students, their trip to Bletchley Park provided an opportunity to see where the codebreakers worked and get a close look at a wide variety of Enigma machines. They had a guided tour of the Park and Mansion, which took in several monuments and provided a realistic experience of wartime work in code-cracking and linguistics huts. Our students got hands on with multiple interactive exhibits, exploring how different ciphers worked and finding out about the history of Bletchley Park. They also found out more about cyber security thanks to brand new exhibits on the subject.

The visit was a hit with students, one of whom commented, I am a maths & science student with an interest in cryptography, so found the trip to be incredibly interesting and enjoyed learning all about Bletchley Park and its history’. Another added, ‘Very interesting and relevant. I learnt a lot about the history of computing and codebreaking as well as some more modern knowledge from the cyber security exhibit.’

Inside Bletchley Manor
One of the Enigma machines.
Our students on their tour of Bletchley Manor.
(posted 23 May 2019)

It’s no Myth: our Students Excel at Greek!

Four of our proud students with their exam certificates. Pictured from left to right are Grace Matthews, Igor Mieczkowski, Callum McHugh and Shannen Agagon.

Congratulations to six of our students who’ve passed their Level 1 Classical Greek EMACT exam!

A level Classics has been enjoyed by Notre Dame’s students for many years and remains a firm favourite, partly due to its rarity in our local area. But Head of Classics Ms Angela Yates wanted to offer more, so 10 years ago she set up Greek Club. The first rule of Greek Club? Learn Greek, of course.

Students attend Greek Club during lunchbreaks, and learn about many aspects of Ancient and Modern Greek life including inscriptions, food, music, politics, and day-to-day activities.

Ms Yates says, ‘It’s rare for a state school to be offering Classical Greek and to my knowledge we’re the only one in the area who does this. Over the years we’ve seen nearly 70 Notre Dame students undertake the course and pass the exam. I’m extremely proud of them all.’

Of course, fluency in Classical Greek is useful for students who wish to progress to classics degrees, and it’s also highly relevant to subjects like history. This fantastic added extra will make any CV or UCAS application sparkle, and is just one example of the extra-curricular activities we offer at Notre Dame.

So congratulations to students Shannen Agagon, Grace Matthews, Hannah Walsh, Dovydas Gedvilas, Callum McHugh and Igor Mieczkowski. Or perhaps that should be Εὖγε!

(posted 22 May 2019)

Pushing up Daisies

Notre Dame’s College Counsellor was inspired to provide support for grieving staff and students throughout Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mental Health Awareness week ran from May 13 to 19 this year. Organised by the Mental Health Foundation, it aims to spread awareness and understanding about mental health. (You can find out more here: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week) This year, our College Counsellor Miss Charlotte Anderton decided to focus on the mental health impact for those in our community who are grieving.

This decision came after she spoke to the organiser of Pushing Up Daisies: an annual week-long festival hosted by Todmorden village, which aims to start conversations about life, death and loss. In response Miss Anderton, supported by our lay chaplain, offered students and staff the chance to talk about the loss of someone they love. ‘This can have a huge effect on your life and your mental wellbeing,’ said Miss Anderton, ‘so we wanted to have our own event at Notre Dame to recognise the importance of having an opportunity to talk about that’.

Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, our counsellor and chaplain opened Café Daisy every lunchtime in the lower common room. This quiet, private space allowed for conversations to take place about an issue that affects everyone. Staff and students were also encouraged to take part in The Last Post, writing letters to people in their lives who had died. Miss Anderton was on hand to support anyone who struggled with what to write. All letters were placed into a postbox, and on Friday lunchtime these were taken to the Chapel to be burnt as a gesture of passing the messages on. This symbolic ceremony provided an opportunity for quiet reflection, a gathering of people from all faiths.

Miss Anderton said, ‘We did this during Mental Health Awareness Week because we believe that grief and loss are a huge part of life and affect both staff and students. However, it’s not something we’re very comfortable talking about. I was inspired by the message of Todmorden’s Pushing Up Daisies Festival: bring death into the light’.

You can read more about the festival here: http://www.pushingupdaisies.org/

(posted 21 May 2019)