Denise Newsome is Principal at Babington Community College in Leicester – one of eight schools shortlisted for the Secondary School of the Year category that we're supporting at this year's TES Awards. In the first in our series of stories profiling the nominees, Denise tells us about the challenges and rewards that come from a school where the first language of almost two thirds of the students isn't English…
Babington is an 11-16 school in the north west of Leicester City. We take students from all over the City and around 65% of our students speak English as an additional language with around forty different languages spoken by our students.
We have taken children from 85 different countries over the past ten years. We pride ourselves on our 'harmonious community based on mutual respect' (Ofsted 2013). With an intake that is so diverse and with such a range of abilities and prior experiences of schooling, we work extremely hard to eradicate any gaps in the achievement of different groups and to ensure that all our students make good and better progress in all their subjects whilst preparing them to be well-rounded citizens with bright futures.
One of the most important issues affecting the college is that we have very high mobility with lots of mid-year admissions. So far this year, we have admitted 233 children into the school at some point after the start of the academic year across all year groups. Fifty-five have been admitted into year 10 alone. This is quite a challenge but we feel that we rise to this challenge and make sure everyone, no matter what time of year they join us, or into which year group they enter, has excellent opportunities to be successful at school and beyond.
I am most proud of the fact that we are such an inclusive school. It is such a benefit to have students from so many different faiths and cultures at the school where everyone can learn from each other and we promote tolerance, respect and the valuing of everyone for who they are as embodied in our school pledge. But it's not only the multicultural aspect, we also have a designated specialist provision for children with speech, language and communication needs including autism. All of these students (up to twenty) are fully included in mainstream lessons and it's a joy to watch them make such good progress. We are in the second most deprived ward in the East Midlands and we know we are offering brilliant opportunities to our students and the community they come from.
I think that all the schools who have been nominated, and indeed, huge numbers of schools across the country, deserve recognition for the work that they do, but what makes our school different is the value that we add to each student once they come to us. Our year 11 cohort in 2014 had the second lowest attainment on entry figure in the country and they achieved GCSE results on the government bench marks which matched national averages. Our value added figure for KS2-4 put us in the top 100 of maintained secondary schools in the country - at number 81. We have all but eradicated the gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. In short, we know that we are making a big difference to the lives and outcomes for the children we serve.
We are very excited to be on the shortlist of schools in the Secondary School of the Year category. No-one does the work that schools do with children and young people in order to win awards but, when the TES and the various sponsors get together to recognise the efforts that schools and the staff in them make, then that's a good feeling.
We are looking forward to finding out who the winner is! If we win, we'll celebrate and thank all of the brilliant staff who make everything that we do possible!