The long, enjoyable summer of 2019 is fading into memories as we begin the first week of the academic year here at St John’s School. However, it has been a summer full of adventure for our pupils and certainly one they will remember for years to come.
St John’s pupils have been on some fantastic adventures this summer, read below for some highlights!
The three-week trip to Cambodia was a tremendous experience for the nine pupils involved. The pupil team had complete control of budget and took responsibility for booking of most hostels, transport and arranging food. The trip began with a one night stay in Phnom Penh, the nation’s capital, before heading to Battambang. The highlight in this city was the rental of a tuk-tuk for several hours and a brilliant tour of the rural surroundings nearby, visiting a killing field from the Khmer Rouge regime, ancient temples and Buddhist monasteries.
Pupils then travelled to Siem Reap, home to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat. The 4.00am start to catch the sunrise behind the towering spires was an unforgettable experience. In Siem Reap, pupils also enjoyed haggling for souvenirs in the markets and trying Cambodia delicacies, including crickets and tarantula. The highlight of the trip for many pupils was living in the rural community of Peaksneng; living, working and eating with such humble individuals was an eye-opening experience, leaving pupils astounded by how happy and content the local community were. While staying in the community, pupils dug over areas of ground and planted organic vegetable patches. They attempted to teach English in a primary school and provided gifts for the children of the village. The tears in pupils’ eyes when the time to leave came, demonstrated how special this place was.
After leaving Peaksneng, pupils travelled to the Cardamom Mountains in the far west of Cambodia. After a four hour drive and a two hour boat ride up the Preak Piphot River, they arrived at the remote ChiPhat Village. After another two-hour boat ride, they began a three-day trek through the rainforest. Pupils faced leeches, spiders, mosquitos, and torrential rain, navigated through tricky terrain, waded through rivers and streams and slept in hammocks. Everyone pushed through and should be immensely proud of their achievements. Finally, we finished in Phnom Penh where they visited the Royal Palace, the infamous S21 museum and Killing Fields. The pupils were exceptionally behaved and had a life-changing experience.
In mid-July, fourteen Fourth Form and Lower Fifth Form pupils and two staff members flew north to Inverness before heading off to the remote north west coast of Scotland for an adventure week at the Ridgway Centre. The centre was set up by John Ridgway, an ex-parachute regiment sailor who became one of the first pair to row the Atlantic. The centre’s aim is to teach self-reliance through adventurous activities, such as three days traversing a mountain, rock climbing, sea kayaking and the finale: a night on “Survival Island”. Pupils were challenged frequently throughout the week but never gave up and came away with memories to last a lifetime. The only casualty of the trip was Mr Hoyland who lost his appendix in Inverness Hospital…these things happen.
Sixth Form drama pupils spent a number of days over the summer devising and rehearsing a piece to be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as ‘Johnians XIV’.
After arriving in Edinburgh on 4 August, the technical and dress rehearsal took place that evening, with only an hour and a half in the space, last minute line rungs and rehearsals followed in the hostel! The pupils took to advertising and flyering for the show incredibly well, quickly developing their own unique tactics and styles. Their hard work paid off as every performance had a healthy audience laughing along with our talented pupils.
The pupils pulled together a concise, entertaining and excellently-received farcical piece. Whilst in Edinburgh, the group were also able to enjoy a broad range of productions. They should be incredibly proud of their debut at the largest arts festival in the world. This was a fantastic opportunity and enjoyable trip for all pupils and staff involved.
Gold D of E
Fifteen Lower Sixth pupils and three staff spent a fantastic week in the Lake District on a Gold D of E practice expedition. Starting off with navigation training and camp-craft on the shores of Lake Coniston, the groups then moved over to Langdale with ascents of the Old Man of Coniston and Weatherlam. With fine weather, expert instruction from Sam and positive attitudes from all participants, the groups did well and finished the expedition strongly on the shores of Lake Windermere.
After a swift departure from Speech Day, a small group of St John's RAF cadets joined with a group of Southborough RAF cadets for a week of action packed activities in sunny Cornwall. Highlights included shooting overlooking the Cornish coast, exploring the Eden project and completing a map and compass exercise across the dunes, culminating in a barbecue on a private beach.
A number of St John’s pupils took part in the 11 Infantry Brigade camp held at Crowborough Training Camp. Highlights of the busy camp included working on their field tactics, conducting an ambush, manning a vehicle checkpoint, clay pigeon shooting, laser tag, and experiencing ancient weapons including axe and spear throwing! Cadets also enjoyed activities such as escape rooms, orienteering, compound and mine clearance, and competitions.
Seven shooters attended the national cadet shooting week at Bisley ranges. The boys all shot well, with some stand out performances, and continued to build on their technique and scores. The week culminated in the Ashburton competition, where tradition dictates that the Scottish schools pipe us onto the point. It was a good day out for St John’s with our senior four coming fourth, our pair coming fourth and our reserve pair ninth out of approximately 40 schools.