Tag Archives: Comenius

Y Pant Comenius Visit to the Netherlands

From 18th to 20th May,  Jordan Sheehy, Natasha Vincent and myself visited a school in Bergen-op-Zoom in the Netherlands.  Whilst there we went to the Deltaworks at Neeltje Jans, and saw the huge storms surge barriers.  The following day we had a boat trip around the Port of Rotterdam, serving 350 million consumers in Europe and a trip up the 185m tall Euromast.

Natasha and Jordan stayed with families in the town whilst all the teachers stayed in a hotel and exchanged pedagogy ideas.

Here are some of our photos.

Deputy Head’s Blog

A long half term has finally come to an end.  I’d like to wish everybody a pleasant and relaxing holiday, particularly the pupils and teachers heading off to Austria on the ski trip.  I’m told that the snow is good out there and that the 24 hour coach trip will be well worth it!  No broken limbs please!

Mr Gareth Howells tells me that James Watt and Amy Jones did tremendously well in the Cambridge Deabting finals this week.  Up against teams almost exculsively from independent schools such as Westminster (Nick Clegg’s old school), they narrowly failed to make the semi finals on the day.  I’m told they had a rough deal, though; exactly how do you propose in favour of a motion that America should be allowed to impose democracy upon any state it chooses to?  Well done to both of them and many thanks to Mr Howells.

The Learn Smart trip to St Fagans went extremely well with our pupils once again doing themselves and the school proud.  The project should make a real difference to the learning and thinking skills of our Year 8 pupils.  It was also good to welcome back the staff and students who visited Sweden as part of the Comenius project as well as, in turn, welcoming French exchange students and teachers into the school.  A real air of globalism has been in evidence this week!

A major part of our job in the coming weeks will be to appoint a new History and Science teacher to the school.  We have had in excess of 80 applicants for the History job and are expecting a similar number for the Science job.  These sort of figures are becoming par for the course in Y Pant and say a lot about our reputation in the wider world of education.  We are the sort of school that teachers very much want to work in.  It’s a challenging task sifting through so many applications from so many talented candidates but it’s a task that we take very seriously, possibly one of the most important things we do all year, because we want only the very best teachers to take their place in our classrooms.

Again, have a good break everyone.

Learn Smart trip to St. Fagans

Learn Smart trip to St. Fagans, Tuesday 15th of February

by Mrs. Sara Nowell-Hughes

St Fagans is one of Europe’s leading open–air museums and Wales’s most popular heritage attraction. It seemed a perfect choice of location to carry out the Learn Smart year 8 trip. The aim of the trip was to visit particular buildings around St. Fagans which linked with the theme of ‘A Sense of Place’. In small groups pupils tried to find out information which would help them to learn more about the local Welsh history. Each pupil had a specific role within the group and then needed to present their findings in the next Learn Smart lesson. The roles were: Team Leader, Team participant, Scribe, Photographer, and Artist.

One group per class was also responsible in making a film based on the ‘You Shoot’ project. They followed their planned story board and were able to use the PE Departments Flip cameras to film the footage. Their work will be edited after the ½ term and will be submitted for the Comenius ‘community’ project.

After a frantic start to the trip (making sure that nearly all 200 students were on the 4 coaches) we arrived at St. Fagans in the rain! The Learn Smart groups were then able to go off to their starting points to begin their activities. We managed to visit all the relevant areas such as the stores, Workmens Hall, the School etc.

Apparently the highlight of the trip was the sweet and bread shops! It was not an unusual sight to see a Y Pant student walking around with a loaf of bread under their arm, munching away at it in the rain!

This is what two pupils thought about the visit;

On the 15th of February we went to St.Fagans as part of the “you shoot” project. It was a very valuable educational experience for the whole of year 8. We all had different tasks to do on the trip. Eventually we got to the old shops and got very hungry and decided to buy a loaf of crusty, homemade, hot bread. Some people didn’t do that and bought sweets and fudge. And before we knew it we had to go home. =( by Bryce and Dylan.

Swedish Newspaper Fame!

During our recent Comenius visit to Sweden, Y Pant students Jackie, Brogan, Bethan and Sophie found their picture in the local paper!  A reporter from the Vasterbottens Folkblad visited the school on the Thursday and interviewed several students about their experiences.

Click to view a larger version of the article. The Y Pant girls can be seen in the smaller photos at the bottom, middle photo.

The translation below has been kindly provided by Heléne Ericsson, English teacher and Comenius co-ordinator of our host school Carlshöjdsskolan.

Article from Vasterbottens Folkblad, Fredag 11 februari, 2011

Sweden, an exotic country with picking candy, snow mattresses and loads of snow? Students from Italy, Holland and Wales had a speedy first day at Carlshöjdsskolan.

Late Wednesday evening nine teachers and 16 students arrived from Carlshöjdsskolan’s partner schools in Wales, Holland, Germany and Italy to Umeå.  Students and teachers will be in Umeå until Sunday, participating in a EU Comenius project for lifelong learning.

The Thursday started of softly with a round of presentations and the occasional awe of having ended up in the middle of the freezing north with -15 degrees and deep snow.
When VF comes to visit the students are playing soccer in the gym hall.
– It was the Italians who came up with the idea, says Fanni Björklund in 9A.
One of the boys from Holland is staying with her family and many of the activities are spontaneous together with other host families housing foreign students during the visit. And the planned program during the days are actually secret to the visiting young people.
– We have no idea what is going to happen, it is really fun. I love the snow and meeting new people, says Italian Yuri Feretti who, with his 18 years of age, is one of the oldest in the group.  He has previously went to both Holland and Wales for exchanges withing the Comenius programme.

Students pass on the elks

The students will among other things experience the school lunch, snow mattresses, buying candy by the weight and being surrounded by lots and lots of snow. The teachers involved spend the mornings in project meetings at school but will for instance go to the Elk house on Saturday to get closely acquainted with the king of the forest. But that outing doesn’t appeal to the students, Linn Claesson from 9 A tells us.
– The students and the teachers have different activities. We want to go skiing, skating and snow mattressing.
Neither Linn nor Fanni has been able to go on an exchange visit in Italy, Holland or Wales, since the students going must be lucky enough to win their participating in a lottery.  But having someone visiting cheers up during the rather dull month of February and is a nice break from ordinary school now that the national exams in Swedish are just finished.
– Nothing much goes on here before the winter holiday week 10, Linn Claesson says.
– We just long for the summer and then it is nice to have visitors that are not so used to the snow here, Fanni Björklund agrees.
The girls continue by saying that Sweden is experienced by the visiting students as the most exotic country in the exchange.
– They wanted to know if we knew French or if we just spoke our own language. And if we had any cinemas.

Keeping contact over the Internet

There is no cinema visit planned but the students from Carlshöjdsskolan has chosen Koops by Josef Fares as a relaxing afternoon activity at school. And a fun way to experience yet another cultural aspect of Sweden. A guided city tour for both students and teachers is planned with a visit to the city council, the library and the snow castle by the river.  Hopefully the exchange will result in good friendship or contacts for future travel and cultural experiences.
Fanni Björklund and Linn Claesson both have Facebook accounts, something that is not as common among the students from the visiting countries.
When VF steps into the teachers’ room one of the Swedish students are explaining how you can start your own groups on Facebook to keep in contact in the future.

Other new things they came in contact with?

– The Dutch students don’t put butter on their sandwiches, Linn Claesson says.
– I’m going to Vännäs to use a sauna and go snowboarding for the very first time, Rick Matthijssen from Holland says.

Picture captions:

Big picture:

Snow mattress. Despite the cold all students from Italy, Holland, Germany and Wales appreciated their very first snow mattress race.

Bottom picture row, left to right:

Study break. Linn Claesson and Fanni Björklund from class 9A on Carlshöjdsskolan appreciate the visit.
Soccer cup. The Italians came up with the idea to play soccer in the gym hall after the ice-breaker games.
No elks. There is a visit to the Elk house on the teachers’ programme but the students rather play in the snow.
Friends. Julia Van Agtmaal and Lieke Buys are two fourteen-year-olds from Holland who love IKEA.
Winter games. Many of the students had never played in the snow previously. Here they get to try Swedish mattress racing.

Picture row, left side, top to bottom:

What do you think about Sweden and Umeå?
Julia van Agtmaal, 14, Holland.
– Great fun. I want to learn more about Swedish culture, eat Swedish foot and try snowboarding for the first time.
Rein v/d Elshout, 15, Holland.
– I went to Sweden for vacation with my parents last summer. It was fantastic to experience winter now. I love the nature.
Giulia Bini, 17, Italy.
– We are from Tuscany so we have never played in the snow like this before. Absolutely wonderful.
Yuri Ferretti, 18, Italy.
– I love the snow and meeting new people and practice my English. I’m looking forward to tasting Swedish food.
Lieke Buys, 14, Holland.
– Everything they have planned they keep a secret to us so it’s a surprise. I knew of IKEA before, “Smöland” and that we use the same words for yes and no. We understand a little when people in the host family speak Swedish, that is fun.

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.

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


Y Pant are working on a Comenius project with several partner schools from across Europe.  We will be hosting visitors from some of these schools from 6th October 2010 for 5 days.  To find out more about the project, please visit our Comenius website (link below) or speak to Mrs Harris.

Comenius website
Please click to visit the Comenius website

The photos from the recent visit by Comenius participants to Wales have now been added.

Win a trip to Sweden!

You could win an expenses-paid trip to Sweden next year as part of the Comenius project.  We are looking for small groups of film makers to shoot a film based on the idea of “Community”.  The films will be judged by a BAFTA award nominated film maker and the winning group will be on the plane!

There will be workshops on Tuesday lunchtime in room 54 where year 12 students and staff will be on hand to assist with any technical matters.

The deadline for this work is Monday 1st November.