This non-selective East Anglia state secondary school and college has been offering the IB for over 30 years and has a reputation for offering a high standard of international education that includes cultural exchange visits, a football scholarship programme, and a focus on foreign language learning.
Located on the outskirts of Cambridge, Impington is a fully inclusive, non-selective school, which makes its high grades at both GCSE and the IB Diploma Programme all the more impressive. It’s a large secondary school of 1,400 pupils, with a local and international student body; around 22% of students have English as an additional language and there are 30 different language groups represented.
There’s a new Sixth Form building (Impington International College) on the same site as the school, with dedicated seminar and teaching rooms and a common room. The good news for parents is that admissions for the IBDP is open to both local and overseas students (providing they have a UK passport, or their parents are working in the UK or are British citizens).
It’s a school that is hugely successful at supporting students of all abilities towards academic achievement; Ofsted inspectors noted in their November 2019 report, “everyone is welcome, regardless of sexuality, nationality, disability or any other personal characteristic”.
Impington takes pastoral care very seriously, and it takes a whole-college approach to building a very positive, inclusive learning environment. Students are offered an in-house mentoring programme, a family support worker, YMCA counselling and access to professionals trained in areas including mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and adolescent mental health. There’s a strong focus on staff wellbeing and mental health, too; teachers are offered flexible working patterns, one paid family day annually and the option to work from home, when not teaching,
Principal Victoria Hearn joined the school in September 2021.
Impington is unlike most state schools in the UK in terms of curriculum – and it’s one that will certainly appeal to the more internationally-minded student. This is a secondary school with a blended curriculum that follows the IB MYP for Years 7-9 before moving onto GCSEs for Years 10-11 and then to a choice of the IBDP or IBCP in the Sixth Form. (The College is currently an MYP candidate school and awaiting authorisation from the IBO.)
The IB is more normally associated with fee-paying private schools in the UK and both local and international schools in countries such as the US, Singapore and the UAE. However, there are 62 state schools in the UK, most of them selective grammar schools, that offer at least one of the IB programmes; this compares to a total of 76 private schools offering the IB.
Impington was one of the first UK state schools to adopt the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, which it feels offers the best-suited curriculum to ensure a well-rounded education. It is widely considered to be among the best and most established IB state schools in the UK and beats the world average IB Diploma scores in all subject areas year on year.
The College’s blended curriculum offers many learning benefits. The College believes that the MYP is the best – and most rigorous – preparation for the diploma programme. Although each IB programme has a standalone framework and curriculum, students with an MYP can find it easier to meet the varied demands of the DP. For example, the experience of the MYP can equip students with the research skills need for the DP’s Extended Essay.
In the MYP, students study eight subject groups. These include language and literature, sciences, mathematics, design (may include resistant materials, graphics, textiles, food, computer studies), arts, individuals and societies (philosophy, geography, history), physical education and health, and language acquisition in languages including French, Chinese, Spanish or English. All students must also complete community service, known as Service as Action, during each academic year of the MYP.
GCSEs can then be seen as a valuable ‘add-on’ for parents who are concerned about the lack of measurement in the MYP; they also offer more opportunities than the MYP for students to start to specialise and focus on their strengths.
In keeping with the internationality of the IB programmes and the very wide mix of nationalities at Impington, the school has a strong focus on languages, with a choice of five languages at GCSE including French, German, Spanish, Japanese and Latin. Many students study two languages at GCSE here.
Impington phased out A Levels several years ago, and students now have the choice of two pathways at Sixth Form: the option to study the broad, academic IBDP or the career focused IBCP. As part of the IBCP, students study one BTEC subject (with a choice of sport, healthcare or performing arts) and undertake a minimum of two other subjects from the DP programme.
The College strongly believes in the importance of both academic and extra-curricular education. As the school says, it believes that “teaching is about developing the whole child and not just a set of academic outcomes”.
It’s this ethos that drives the College’s iCAS programme, a timetabled enrichment programme that encourages every student to get involved in creativity, activity and service activities as varied as pottery, sports leadership, yoga, swimming, first aid and Greek philosophy. And as well as attending the standard school day, from 9am to 3.20pm, students can sign up for extra enrichment classes before school, and study and revision lessons after school.
As mentioned before, Impington is a very globally minded school, and it has partner schools in France, Germany, Spain, Japan and Ethiopia. Prior to the pandemic, the College was sending students overseas every year to “explore different cultures and different educational experiences through exchange programmes and international conferences”. Even during the past three years, the College has organised virtual exchanges with partner schools in Japan.
The school also offers students an opportunity to combine their academic studies with specialist football coaching by UEFA and FA qualified coaches – and the chance to represent Norwich City FC RDP. It has partnered with Norwich City Football Club Regional Development Programme (NCFCRDP) to offer a post-16 Football and Education Scholarship programme, which Principal Victoria Hearn says, "means that our students can gain a highly regarded international education while they pursue their passion for football."
"As a result of the scholarship programme, many of our students have gone on to study at Russell Group and internationally leading universities, including in the USA."
GCSE: In the last four years, students’ GCSE results have consistently placed Impington in the top 5% of non-selective schools in the UK. In the last published results, which were in 2019, 15% of all grades were at grade 9 and 14% of all students achieved eight or more grade 8-9 GCSEs; 42% of all grades were at 7 or above, with 30% achieving at least grade 7s in both English and maths.
Perhaps a better measure of the success of this school, though, is most recent Progress8 score of 0.9, meaning that for the last four years students have achieved, on average, almost half a grade above national expectations in every one of their subjects.
IBDP: In 2021, students achieved an average point score of 36 (the same as in 2021) and a 100% pass rate; 35% of students attained 40 points or more. The UK's average IBDP score is 36.35 which surpasses the global average of 31.98.
The IB cohort received offers at Oxbridge, Russell Group and other leading international universities along with a number of top drama schools to study a variety of subjects including Biology, Law, Acting and Psychology. Four students secured places at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.
The College is in the pretty village of Impington, surrounded by large grassy fields used for many whole-College events. Facilities support the teaching of the IB and include technology studios, art spaces including a photography studio and media suite, laboratories, dance and drama studios, recital rooms and a music studio. Students are also lucky enough to have their own fully-equipped sports centre with a gym and swimming pool.
Admissions for Impington Village College is made through the Common Application Form (CAF) to the local authority, and students must apply in Year 6 for a Year 7 place. The deadline to submit the application is October 31 in the year preceding entry.
There is often a high demand for places here, which are awarded according to the Local Authority criteria of looked-after children, siblings and distance from school. You’ll often need to be living less than two miles of the school to stand a chance of getting a place, and the catchment area includes Girton, Histon and Impington, Milton and Oakington.
You will find out if you have been offered a place on National Offer Day, which is March 1 every year.
Admissions for the Sixth Form (Impington International College) are open to both UK and overseas students (conditions d apply). The final deadline for international applications is the end of June for the next academic year.
As a UK state school, there are no fees.
Good for: Impington is a leading (and popular) state school for several reasons - its inclusivity, international community of students (in the Sixth Form), co-ed education and non-selective admissions criteria. But, perhaps it's the fact that you can send your child for an IB education without paying the fees of an independent school that stands out above all.
It's a school that offers opportunities for your child to achieve, at their level of progress, whatever their academic ability. This is a school support every student - those can can achieve one or two GCSEs alongside their entry level qualifications and those who can obtain Grade 9s. Whether they prefer to follow a traditional or a vocational pathway, Impington can offer a very solid education in the arts, sport and technology as well as maths, English, science and languages.
Not for: If you are searching for a very academically-focused school, or simply one that offers A Levels, there are plenty of other options across Cambridgeshire.
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