It was a bit of a shock this morning to wake up to -19 on the thermometer. It’s the kind of temperature that if you don’t get your mittens on before you go outside you regret it for ages.
We were back in school this morning and got to have more of a tour of the buildings and also outside. From a teachers’ point of view what struck me the most was absolute calmness of the school. As I said yesterday it is a small school – and with a wide age range. There is no set time for break and lunch. Every class has a separate timetable which means they take breaks at different times. For any teachers reading this, working out duty is not an issue as they don’t do duty. Pupils go outside completely unsupervised. Eating is permitted anywhere. No one wears uniform and pupils call teachers by their first names. Perhaps the larger schools are different. It’s a great atmosphere but I don’t know how well it would translate to a school the size of Y Pant.
We also quizzed the teachers on the school system in Sweden a little more today. In year 9 (our year 11) pupils sit exams in Maths, Swedish, English and Science but their final grades also depend on their teacher assessing how well they have done over the year. No one chooses options at 14 as everyone is taught the same curriculum but at 16, you choose to go to a specialised school to study either “theoretical” subjects such as Swedish or History, or something more practical such as technology or science. They have no ICT lessons at all and are very excited as 80 laptops are being delivered to the school next month.
After lunch (tex mex kyckling or chicken today – no porridge) we were taken on a walking tour of Umeå. The town appears fairly new having been burned down and raided by the Russians several time during its’ history. The river is completely frozen over all winter. Whilst we could see vehicle tracks on the ice and did see someone walking across – people rarely do as the ice thickness is not tested. Further inland they apparently use the rivers as roads in winter though.
I think the most fun was had at the ice castle on the riverfront. This has been built as a play area for children but “children” can be any age. After the tour we all had time to shop for some souvenirs in the town.
This evening all the teachers have been invited to have dinner at a Swedish teacher’s house with their family. I had a very good meal with Linda and her two children. We had a moose and mushroom quiche followed by beef, cooked for 12 hours then salted for another 5. Linda’s 10 year old daughter had cooked a chocolate cake for dessert. Mrs Harris was given meatballs (better than Ikea apparently!). When you park your car at home in Sweden you plug the engine into an electrical supply. The car engines here are set-up so that the electricity will keep them warm to start quickly in the morning. It is very bad for the environment to start a car in -20. Just another way that life is organised very differently in the frozen north.
In case you are wondering why the students have not written anything yet, they have been kept very busy with their host families. I have asked them to take some photos of their own and write something about their experiences when they get back to Wales.