Day 2 in Sweden

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.

Bike in snow
Cycling is popular in Sweden, even in -19! But if you leave your bike outside in a snow storm you might struggle

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.

The frozen river in Umeå

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.

ice castle
The ice castle at night
The dragon carved from snow - it's back and tail is a slide.

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.

A snow shovel is kept outside every house. You can see the depth of the snow! It's very dry here though so the paths are not at all slippery.

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.

Y Pant Logo

Deputy Head’s Blog

It’s difficult to know where to start this week as so much is happening in school at the moment.  We’ve got pupils and teachers on the Comenius visit to Sweden which looks like a truly unforgettable cultural experience; James Watt and Amy Jones have posted yet another debating victory and are now due to attend finals in both Oxford and Cambridge; the Year 9 Options Evening was tremendously well attended and all Year 9 pupils have now had their options talks from Mr Bryn Jones.  This is an important time for these young people and I wish them well with their choices.  Also, of course, the Powell sporting kiss of death did for Italian and Scottish people last week.  Apologies to the populations of those two countries.

It has been Internet Safety Week this week.  Mrs Lloyd-Davies has been working hard to raise the profile of factors surrounding this vital and pressing issue.  I was pleased to be able to attend one of the assemblies that Mrs Lloyd-Davies delivered to all our year groups this week: powerful, thought-provoking and helpful.  I urge as many parents as possible to attend the parents evening on internet safety which will be held in the school in early March.  Might be worth checking your children’s profiles on social networking sites, too.  Public profiles are extremely dangerous.

Finally, let’s hope that Wales enjoy a better result than last week.

The girls at Terminal 3, Heathrow

Comenius Trip to Sweden

It is -14 here in Umeå, northern Sweden, and there is over a metre of snow on the ground but school is still open!  In fact it would take a serious natural disaster for the school to shut.  Of course they are far more prepared for snow here as it will be on the ground for several months, every year.

Visa större karta
We had a 12 hour journey from Y Pant yesterday.  Flying from Heathrow we had to change in Stockholm and eventually arrived in Umeå (pronounced oo-may-oh) at about 11pm.  Jackie, Brogan, Bethan and Sophie were welcomed by their host families and taken away to their homes.  We teachers were escorted to our hotel by Helen Eriksson, the English teacher organising this exchange.

The girls at Terminal 3, Heathrow
The girls at Terminal 3, Heathrow

We awoke to darknesss.  At a latitude of 63° Umeå is a lot further north than Wales so during the winter, has fewer hours of daylight.  However before we left the hotel at 8, we were relieved to see it turning light.  As I write this as 3:15 in the afternoon it is now starting to get dark again.

Students and teachers in the classroom at the school
Students and teachers in the classroom at the school

We spent the morning at school and first had a meeting to present the various Community films that students from the participating schools had made.  Everyone’s film showed aspects of their community in a variety of ways.  Some had focussed on the people whereas others had looked in more detail at the landscape or the buildings.  We’re looking forward to seeing more of the films from our Learn Smart projects and the other partner schools too.

After an hour or so, the students were all taken outside tobogganing and the teachers had a further meeting to discuss the Comenius project before having lunch.  Carlshöjdsskolan school is very different from Y Pant.  It has around 400 students aged from 6 to 16.  The school is all on one level and is very spacious throughout.  Outside classrooms there are large communal areas with seating for students – it’s far too cold spend much time outside!

Every student in Sweden is entitled to free school meals so they all eat lunch in the school cafeteria.  There is a huge emphasis on healthy eating in school meals (without Jamie Oliver’s influence!).  We were offered a choice of soup or porridge for lunch along with bread and a selection of crackers with cheese and ham, plus carrot sticks and orange slices.  Children of all ages help themselves.  We couldn’t help thinking that the healthy aspect of the meal was slightly cancelled out for one little boy who helped himself to a bowlful of sugar to have with his porridge!

Everyone eats at the free cafeteria at lunchtime.
Children as young as 6 go to Carlshöjdsskolan. Everyone eats at the free cafeteria at lunchtime.
Jackie and Bethan help themselves to sugar on their lunchtime porridge
Jackie and Bethan help themselves to sugar on their lunchtime porridge

After lunch the teachers retired to the staff room for coffee.  Mrs Harris and myself have included some photos of the staff room at Carlshöjdsskolan in case Mr Tucker is thinking of refurbishing the staff room at Y Pant.  Teachers from all schools agreed it was the nicest staff room we’d seen and wouldn’t have looked out of place as an Ikea room set!

The meeting area in the staff room
Teachers from our partner schools in Germany and Sweden in the Carlshöjdsskolan staff room

After this the teachers were taken into the PE equipment store to kit ourselves out for the afternoon activities.  As you might expect.  Sport in Northern Sweden is very different from the UK.  We chose boots and skis for an afternoon of cross-country skiing.

Ice skates lined up for PE lessons
Just part of the school's collection of cross-country skis

Cross-country skiing is a popular past time in Sweden and the inhabitants of Umeå are lucky enough to have a forested ski area just minutes from the city centre.  We spent about an hour and a half negotiating some of the tracks before stopping for “fika”.  This is a Swedish phenomenon and is used to mean a snack of any type of food or drink.  We all sat around a wood fire drinking hot coffee and cooking hot dogs on sticks.  Fika was very welcome after all this strenuous exercise!

sweden ski
Cross-country skiing through the forested are in Umeå
sweden fire
Cooking hot dogs on the fire for fika
There are several of these rest huts at the ski area

You Shoot trip to St. Fagans

The re-scheduled Learn Smart trip to St. Fagans will be run on Tuesday 15th of February 2011. All of Year 8 pupils are encouraged to attend the trip which will complement the Learn Smart projects on ‘A Sense of Place’ and the Comenius media project on ‘Community’.

Pupils will attend their first lesson as normal but will need to leave early to depart from school at 9.30am. They will arrive and start their activities at St. Fagans from 10.00am- 12.30pm. Pupils will leave St. Fagans at 12.40am with the aim to arriving back in school at lunch time (1.10pm). Normal lessons will resume at period 5.

Pupils will be expected to wear school uniform and bring a small amount of money to pay for refreshments. Pupils should wear appropriate coats and other outer garments as most of the activities will be outdoors. Pupils will also have permission to use their phones/ cameras to photograph activities during the visit.

Most students have returned the completed consent form, EV8 form and the £2 cost of the trip (the cost covers the transport for the day). Please ensure forms and money are handed into Learn Smart teachers as soon as possible to ensure a place on the trip has been secured.

Mrs S Nowell-Hughes (Head of Learn Smart)

Y Pant Logo

Deputy Head’s Blog

I’d like to start this week by congratulating all the students involved in last Saturday’s debating competition.  Y Pant is developing a reputation as a centre of excellence for debating and it is great to see so many students from such a variety of age groups working hard and enjoying success.  Particular congratulations must go to James Watt and Amy Jones for their victory and I’m sure I speak for everybody associated with the school when I wish them the very best of luck in the finals to be held at Cambridge University.

I look forward to meeting many parents next week.  We have the Year 7 Parents’ Evening on Monday where teachers will be available to discuss your child’s progress and we have the Year 9 Options Evening on Wednesday.  Both of these are critically important events and I sincerely hope that as many parents as possible are able to attend.

Some of you may already have noticed the new structure which has appeared in the yard alongside the tennis courts.  Several people have commented on its likeness to a circus top!  We are delighted, though, to be able at last to provide our pupils with a sound shelter for rainy days.  Another will be erected soon to allow shelter for pupils queueing to use the Lesser Hall canteen.

I’ve been told I’m a sporting  jinx so I’ll keep my prediction about the Wales v England game to myself!  I quite fancy Italy and Scotland to spring a couple of surprises, though.  Apologies in advance to the Italians and Scots!


Y Pant Wins Top Honours

Cambridge School’s Debate Competition

Saturday 29th January held at Y Pant School

Early on Saturday morning the Y Pant debate team were hurriedly preparing for the start of the Cambridge School’s Debate Competition where top honours had eluded them for the past two years. The teams consisted of James Watt and Amy Jones, Matthew Knight and Matthew Ingram, and Lawrence Watts and James Duggan. Not only was James Duggan one of the youngest competitors on the day but he showed true grit and determination after he agreed to compete with less than 24hrs notice.  A special mention must also go to Aaron Parsons who came along to support Y Pant and was roped into debating as a swing team.

The day consisted of three gruelling debates that culminated in the final at 6pm. Matthew Knight and Matthew Ingram showed early promise winning the first debate and continued to do well throughout the day only just missing out on the final.  Lawrence Watts and James Duggan had a tougher outing but found the experience worthwhile and flourished in the last debate.  After an unusually slow start from James Watt and Amy Jones their debating prowess soon began to shine and they marched confidently into the final.

The motion for the final debate was this house would allow prisoners the vote. Along with Y Pant, Ysgol Glantaff, Builth Wells and St John’s College had each secured a place in the final. Ysgol Glantaff had dominated the previous debates but it was clear that James and Amy had saved their best performances for last. After a passionate and heated exchange Y Pant and Builth Wells were crowned champions. Further honours went to James Watt who shared the best speaker award with Sam from Ysgol Glantaff. Now the greater challenge awaits at Cambridge University for the final’s day.

James Watt and Amy Jones