The Good Schools Guide to Impington Village College 2011-12
Since 2007, Mr Robert Campbell BA PGCE MPhil (mid forties). Married with three school age children (two at the College themselves). This English graduate, who has quickly climbed the educational ladder and already has a previous headship under his belt, is seriously conscientious and totally wedded to the job. Pro-active, direct and thoughtful, he's a great believer in inclusivity and is good at promoting IVC (Impington Village College). Acronym speak occasionally pops up, but as his vocation is to be active within the school, he doesn't sit on committees or live behind a desk – currently teaching GCSE English. Interests include fiction, history and music – he plays the guitar and clarinet. Also an international orienteer who has represented England and hopes to do so again. On top of all of this he often runs to school from Cambridge Station. As someone who has 'endeavoured to be everywhere for everybody', he must be, as one parent commented, 'Superman'. We rather agree.
A school with a split personality. Pre-sixth a happy, sound community comp where the ordered teaching environment lauds the bright and gives sensitive help to the less able. Comments from parents that some have learned to be middle of the roaders are countered by the head. He assures us this is a thing of the past now two tutors per form - the learning tutor and assistant learning tutor stay with their charges all the way through, making underachievement less likely.
At GCSE, a solid performance given the mixed intake – 66 per cent with five A*-Cs including English and Maths in 2011. Students start Key Stage 4 in Year 9. Applied learning schemes for those in this year and above. Courses in catering, construction, life skills, hair and beauty – a salon on site. Has specialist language status – it provides a French teacher for local primaries and has a clutch of European teachers on the staff. All in Year 7 learn French and Spanish. Option of Spanish and Japanese at GCSE and Russian in the sixth. Greek, Italian, Latin and Chinese also on offer and some fast tracking for super linguists. At the other end of the scale, the sensible alternative of an international award, which increases awareness of other cultures.
Now to the extraordinary Sixth Form, where 75 per cent take the IB – introduced in 1991 – with most of the rest taking A levels in the arts. A bona fide international college with a well regarded head and students from 33 nations - 'The way international students raise expectations and level of competition is an eye opener for the home cohort,' commented one parent. Results at the top end are outstanding - typically, over 90 per cent IB pass (international average is 79 per cent) and average points of 32, equivalent to three A grades. In 2011, the whole cohort passed, with average points of 33.
'Hugely inclusive' place – a quarter have special needs. The spacious, purpose-built Pavilion provides a perfect base for SEN and treatment centre for those with physical difficulties. Where appropriate, designated lessons and/or in-class support. In addition, boasts an IDEAL unit which provides 25 places for young adults with moderate to severe learning needs, including those with Down's Syndrome. Some of the 25 are from out of catchment – the rest LA referral. All join mainstream pastoral activities and, where appropriate, mainstream lessons. We were impressed with the positive interaction between some of the IB students and members of the unit.
Games, Options, the Arts
Verdict from the punters is that 'sport is brilliant', and appreciation for staff who not only put in extra time but are also scrupulously fair when selecting teams is unanimous. Has a Sportsmark award - a fine choice of team and individual games at all levels. Pupils are encouraged to try everything and boys genuinely enjoy dance lessons in the sprung floor studio – an enthusiastic ex-pupil has returned to teach in the school which inspired him to dance. Games not compulsory in the sixth - enthusiasm for team sports found lower down the school seems to fizzle out.
Performing Arts are particularly strong - a composer, fine artist and professional dancer have been in residence in recent years. Impressive drama: excellent and often challenging performances – not many places where you'd find a production of Antigone by Sophocles put on by Year 11 GCSE students playing to a full house. Workshops run by external talent, ballet classes before school and a post 16 School of Performance.
Introduction of two-weekly timetable has given more time for extra-curricular activities. Lots of clubs including an active Amnesty International group. D of E is very popular (several gold awards each year) with the IB requirement of 150 hours of community service readily accommodated. Many trips overseas and international exchanges – a Year 11 student recently gained a scholarship to spend five months in Japan.
Background and Atmosphere
On the outskirts of Cambridge, founded in 1939 under a scheme (devised by Cambridgeshire's education secretary Henry Morris) where rural England was to be provided with educational and social centres serving all ages – continues to offer adult education and maintains a sports centre open 364 days a year from 6am to 10pm. Walter Gropius, of Bauhaus fame, designed the main building which, although jaded on the outside, still makes an interesting architectural statement, particularly in the curved wing where the head has his office. Large entrance hall serves as the 'prom', where younger children congregate and happily chatter. Newer buildings radiate across the ample site.
Good facilities including indoor pool, new and impressive sports centre with first-rate gym and sauna, library with a sound proofed sixth form area, a history department set around clusters of computers and an editing suite with top notch equipment. Children are well behaved and appear pleasantly relaxed in this straightforward, well tended environment. Jolly touches give a lift to otherwise bland spaces – cronky metallic structures donated by a local sculptor and bright graphic images in the Year 7 eating area. Improved, healthier food and cheery canteen. A shame children have to buy water and relatively little space for eating at tables – but giant leap into the 21st century with 'Vericool' (note the creepy name): a finger print recognition system which has effectively cut queues at tills and signing in points. Orwell and 1984 come to mind, but pupils, predictably, think it's 'cool'.
Sixth, who don't wear a uniform, have their own building with a buzzy, welcoming common room. New mezzanine floor hasn't done much to alleviate crowding and the head hopes for a new centre to accommodate ever increasing numbers. Community spirit is strong and charitable events abound – a project to raise money for children in Ghana has already given some the opportunity to go to school. Students have also been to Bangalore to help the street children.
Pastoral Care and Discipline
Caring, friendly atmosphere predominates - true to its egalitarian principles, no prefects: very Impington. All have access to a male or female counsellor - a great help with stress and all sorts of problems. Bullying isn't swept under the carpet but dealt with straight away - as one pupil commented, 'This is a big school and we are children'. Students and a teacher recently refined the behaviour policy and volunteers are involved with a mentoring scheme. Highly rated community support officer, employed by the school, is based in the college - 'He's an excellent role model, up to mischief in and out of school, and works with the child, their family and the college, and every school should have one,' enthused the head. 'Absolutely brilliant,' commented one mum.
Pupils really feel they have a voice. Large, unelected and active student council, co-ordinated by a member of staff, is open to all. Head believes in being firm but fair and developing pupils' sense of responsibility towards the college. Very rare permanent exclusions. All cases are looked at individually and support is given to students and families, but the policy re banned substances is clear.
Pupils and Parents
Parents of 11–16 year olds range from Cambridge academics to the seriously underprivileged. In the Sixth Form, pupils come from all over: some are local, others from a range of countries – mostly in the EU. International students and those from outside Cambridgeshire are housed (carefully) with local host families. Sixth formers we met (of several nationalities) were delightfully open, mature and self motivated - 'The work is extremely challenging and we have to work hard, but the atmosphere in this school is so good that I really regret having holidays. It is just a wonderful school'. Praise indeed from someone who's come from abroad.
At 11 from local primaries in catchment. Over-subscribed but appeals often succeed, boosting class sizes above the target level of 28 (20 in the sixth).
Four distinct courses in the sixth. For the selective IB, pupils need to be well motivated and have an average B grade profile at GCSE; according to a sixth former, if students don't work that's their problem - they'll sink. For A levels - mostly arts based - normally five Cs or better. For the School of Performance, which provides a vocational training for those planning a career in dance, theatre or music, academic qualifications aren't an issue, but students are informally auditioned and are likely to take one or two A/AS levels. Special post-16 one-to-one course for those with severe learning difficulties.
At 16 about two thirds to local colleges (Hills Road, Long Road etc) for wider range of A levels and vocational qualifications. 87 per cent of sixth formers to university; destinations are a wonderfully eclectic mix - last year included University of Rome (medicine), LMO Munich (pure economics), University of Plymouth (sports management), Sussex (psychology), University of Tu, Delft (aeronautical engineering), Northern Contemporary Dance (dance degree), Bristol (architecture and planning). Quite a few gap years and deferred entries.
No fees unless non EU families re locate to the area. Entitlement to free education - or assistance - is determined by the visa status of parents.
An exciting, forward looking place which has much to offer all sorts. Energetic head looks set to make pre sixth equal to the Sixth Form, where the international cohort makes IVC exceptional within the state system.