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During and following on from half term we have seen a succession of exciting and enriching trips

Upper Sixth Former Bethan relates the experiences of a recent History trip, visiting sites associated with Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and the Wars of the Roses: ‘During the second week of half term, Sixth Form historians set out on an epic Medieval History road trip with Dr Goldsmith and Miss Scott, covering Kent and Northern France. In two cars, we visited Canterbury Cathedral, Dover Castle, Chateau Gaillard, Rouen, Fontevraud Abbey, and Chinon Castle – each of which are relevant to our course – and saw the Bayeux Tapestry before having a picnic lunch at Caen Castle and heading home. The trip was a busy one, packed with information, wonderful places, and a selection of shockingly bad History jokes; and fuelled by the joy of seeing the places mentioned in our textbooks, and the type of excitement induced by castles that only historians know…and plenty of snacks, of course. The trip made our syllabus come alive, and was a brilliant way to round off the half term.’

Mrs Furey reports on a French trip to Montpellier over half term: ‘The French Department took 26 girls to Montpellier, where they stayed with very welcoming and kind host families and had to speak French 24/7! In the mornings, there were 3 hours of lessons followed by activities such as a guided tour of Montpellier, a visit to the beach and to Nîmes and finally photomania and shopping time. The girls learnt about French culture and history while developing their language skills. It was an extremely fun and unforgettable experience.’

Lower Sixth Formers attended a ‘Chemistry in Action’ Conference in London, participating in sessions from leading chemists in academia and industry, with a special session on exam success. Favourite lectures included: ‘From Breaking Bad to making good – the chemistry of drugs’ by Professor David Smith from the University of York, who explained how drugs work, how they can be obtained from natural sources or made in a lab, why gin and tonic became a popular evening drink and how nanomedicines can be used to treat cystic fibrosis; ‘Indestructible Energy!’ by Dr Jamie Gallagher, whose interactive talk included live experiments, including a Kahoot quiz about Energy in which Dr Smith came 3rd!

Ms Treanor reports on an A level Geographers expedition, ‘exploring Compton as part of their ‘Changing Places’ topic. We began with a visit to Watts Gallery and The Studio, where we met with local volunteers who explained the influence that Mary Watts had on the village until her death in the 1930s. Our investigation aims to link people’s lived experiences of Compton in the past and the present, with a focus on economic change and social inequalities. So the girls then set off through the village, to collect data and consider their own perceptions of Compton, in addition to interviewing people who live there. They also interviewed the Heritage Officer from Watts Gallery who provided them with some specific information about the links the Gallery aims to make both locally and internationally. Back in lessons they will now delve deeper and analyse census and other data to help draw conclusions.’

Upper Sixth Form Sociologists attended a ‘Sociology in Action’ conference, here described by Head of Department Mrs Haddock: ‘Students were both entertained and challenged by a series of speakers on a range of subjects from crime to disability and educational aspiration to racial prejudice. They were warned about bias in the media by the writer and columnist Matthew Parris, as well as encouraged by a charismatic poet and professor to see university as a place for social action against racial prejudice – including the tearing down of statues of Rhodes. Other topics questioned common assumptions about how disabled people are restricted, not by their physical impairment, but by the limitations imposed by public structures such as inaccessible transport and buildings. In a similar vein, students were presented with research evidence showing that a lack of opportunities in the education system, such as failing schools and restricted subject choices, rather than a lack of aspiration, prevents pupils from reaching university. We left exhausted, but feeling impassioned and informed, and headed to get some well-deserved refreshment from the local Starbucks!’