Giving our students the world

Jo Sale, Vice Principal, Impington International College

At Impington International College, we are extremely lucky to welcome students to our learning community from all over the world. In our current sixth form cohort alone, we have students studying with us from across the UK and 13 other countries: Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Belgium, South Africa, USA, Slovakia, Slovenia, Israel and France – which creates a unique and very special learning environment for a state sixth form! One student once said to me that walking through our sixth form common room is like backpacking across the world; I couldn’t agree more.

As an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, international-mindedness sits at the heart of our College and, through our curricula offerings, approaches to teaching and learning and ethos, this is brought to life.

We are extremely proud to have been teaching the IB programmes for 30 years. The approaches to teaching of IB programmes focus on developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. Therefore, ensuring that our students understand and appreciate their own culture and personal history, as well as being open to the perspectives, values and traditions of others is key, and something that comes alive in our classrooms.

It is this open-mindedness that is evident in all of our Diploma Programme (DP) lessons. Rather than our students sitting rigidly during their lessons, they are encouraged to converse and debate; developing their natural curiosity by engaging fully in all lessons and opening themselves up to complex and sometimes hard discussions with their classmates and teachers.

These conversations do not just take place in the classroom. I feel an immense sense of pride when I walk around our College site and hear so many different discussions and, better yet, in a variety of languages too! To see our students from all over the world come together and debate, discuss and laugh is inspiring; the different beliefs, cultures and experiences that are discussed are priceless. It is also a joy to see how seamlessly our students mix and how our sixth form allows them to form unique connections with those who they may not usually cross paths with. Our College literally gives our students the world at their fingertips.

Our students are our best evidence of how closely-knit our community is. During these challenging times, it has remained important that we maintain this connection and we have worked extremely hard to ensure that everyone, in particular those transitioning to Year 12, feel welcomed and confident, so that they can have these brilliant experiences and make the most of their time with us.

So, as we start the new academic year, we have ensured that all of our students will have quality contact time with tutors, and that our tutor groups are no bigger than 15 students, which means they get plenty of 1-2-1 access. As the majority of our students have been out of education since March, we have spent a lot of time ensuring that they are aware of what we expect from them and the responsibilities that they now have as young adults – making the learning leap from secondary school to sixth form is a huge task that shouldn’t be underestimated!

One part of our induction process that has worked particularly well, has been the individual approach that we’ve taken for each student; this has been mirrored in the way that we have communicated with our parent community too. Many parents, especially those sending their children to another country for education, have felt anxious and worried about what our College will be like in this ‘new norm’. So, we offered all of our parents the chance to join personal Zoom meetings with our senior leadership team and submit their specific questions, so that as much information is shared as possible. We have, of course, been sending out regular communications via email too but, in times like this, seeing a face and hearing a voice is reassuring.

Our international community makes us what we are. Through these difficult times, they have been fantastic, in continuing to support one another as well as us. It has been brilliant to be back in the College and to see everyone motivated and excited to get back to some form of normality and I am so proud of how everyone has settled in and welcomed their new friends. We’re ready for whatever is thrown our way and to help our students grow into young adults who are ready to take on the world!