Dear Parents, Guardians and Friends,

It was lovely to welcome back our three sets of travellers this week.

Firstly, the Year 12 French students returned from a great exchange and work experience week in Fougères, France.

Exchanges are a great way to get to know real life in the country when you are studying the language! I recall fondly my own exchange when I was at school. I was in Year 12 and was going to St Cloud, near Paris for my second exchange, this time for two weeks, which was a long time!

As a 6th former, “the plan” was, my friends (British ones of course, no real plans to actually practise French) and I would hang out in “Les Halles” by day, eating in the local “Quick” (French fast food chain) for lunch. “The reality”…… on arrival, I was told my exchange partner was actually in Spain until the following week, but as it was still the holidays, the family was whisking me off to their extended family’s farmhouse in Brittany for 5 days! So, once I got over the shock of not hanging out in Paris with my friends after all, I found myself in the somewhat surreal situation of being in a car for 5 hours with a family I had never met with their 12 year old daughter and 10 year old son for company. Great fun for a 17 year old! I was not very happy and may have even sulked for a bit!

On arriving at the beautiful farmhouse in a very remote hamlet in La Boule, my reality for the next 5 days started to sink in and so I just had to go with it and embrace the opportunity that had presented itself. Learn French! Nobody spoke English and so I spent 5 days learning colloquialisms from grandparents, French cooking by the parents and aunts and board games taught all in French by the children.

I can honestly say I gained so much from that trip which is probably what set out my love of French and languages to this day. I came back with not bad French at all and I will remember that trip forever.

Exchanges are very different nowadays, for lots of reasons and the one our students have just completed was a work experience opportunity. Staying in French homes by night, the students worked in a local primary school by day, teaching English to little ones. They had a great time and learned a lot. Thanks to Mrs Holland for accompanying the trip and to Miss Howgill for arranging it.

Mrs Stoker, Miss Crichton and Mrs Cross and some Year 9 and 10 students also returned this week from their trip to Granada. They had beautiful weather and saw lots of this fabulous city with their guided walking tour and trips to local markets.

Lastly, Mr Furlong , Mrs Hagger, Mrs Hopkins and Mrs Hart returned with the Year 9 students from their trip to the Battlefields. Always a poignant trip, our girls were respectful as ever as they visited the Theipval memorial to lay wreaths.

I would like to thank all these staff for giving up their time to arrange and lead these great trips.

Also this week, National Careers’ week got off to a great start with Carron Freeney a senior project manager and chartered chemical engineer from Foster Wheeler coming in to talk to Year 8 about her job. She talked passionately about how she got into chemical engineering, how much she gets to travel and how varied her job is.

Yesterday, Dr Clare Watts a space physicist at Reading university, came in to talk to Year 7 about her fascinating job which includes forecasting the weather in space!

Mrs Hart our careers lead, has organised a packed week with a focus on STEM careers, comprising assemblies by visiting speakers and lunchtime seminars. We have had speakers from Atkins, Apple, BMW, Balfour Beatty, Wilmott construction to name a few. Their fields have included chemical engineers, software engineers, design co-ordinators and directors. Their assemblies and seminars have really opened our students’ eyes to the many opportunities that exist in this huge field of STEM.

I would like to thank them for generously giving their time to come in and talk to us and to Mrs Hart for co-ordinating such a great week.

Katie Pearce