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Year 9 enjoyed a sunny, warm and “Francophone” week abroad in July, seizing the opportunity to practise their French, experience the best of French culture and enjoy the company of their friends in our first languages residential trip since 2019.

Pupils met their teachers bright and early at school and journeyed to France using the ferry crossing. Although we’d been a little worried by reports of long queues at Dover, everything went smoothly and we were quickly on our way across the channel. Our first stop was at the Blockhaus D’Eperleques, a fascinating ruin from occupied France. Stories of German rocket engineering, and the opportunity to see where the German forces had designed a launching facility for the V2 rockets, were particularly interesting to our students who enjoy History and Engineering.

After our visit to the Blockhaus we travelled to our accommodation—new to the school this year in Parc D’Olhan, a French National Park. The Park itself was beautiful, with spacious fields, lots of tree cover and a welcoming peaceful atmosphere after the ferry and coach trip. We were also lucky to have the services of two “animateurs” who kept pupils and staff entertained in the evenings. It is perhaps unusual to report the food as a highlight of a school trip, but we were treated to three course meals at dinner, excellent packed lunches and hearty breakfasts at Parc D’Olhan.

The first full day involved pupils visiting the typically French market in Étaples and trying out their French. Although some students were a little apprehensive, all were pleased to find that the stall-holders could understand their questions and, even more excitingly, that they were able to use their French to buy treats such as crêpes and, for a large number, bucket hats! These came in handy when we ate lunch at the beach. Next on our itinerary was a trip to a traditional snail farm, where pupils enjoyed first of all seeing, then handling, then (for the most intrepid) eating snails. Again the pupils’ readiness to try new things impressed. Even students who had been initially hesitant about touching a snail were, by the end of the visit, confidently picking up snails and in some cases encouraging snails to travel up and down their faces! Finally, we travelled to a French bakery where pupils saw how the traditional baguettes were prepared, as well as enjoying a French pain au chocolat. The baker commented really warmly about the students’ French and how impressed he was with their language skills.

On the second day we journeyed to Boulogne, where pupils first completed a trail around the beautiful Old Town. We then enjoyed lunch outside and an afternoon in the spectacular Nausicaá – the biggest aquarium in Europe. This had been expanded since we last visited and now features a cinema-style screen into an enormous tank, where viewers can be amazed by the sight of a giant manta ray.

After our journey back to Parc D’Olhan, we enjoyed perhaps the highlight of the trip for many pupils—a ride on the “toboggan”, a luge-style rollercoaster transporting riders at speed down the side of a hill. Many pupils (and staff) chose to ride the toboggan again, after realising that a “no-brakes” experience was fast and exciting! Our evening concluded with a French fancy dress competition and awards for our most convincingly French style pupils—Arjun, Sajid and Abdullah were among those earning the coveted certificate.

Sadly, the time came the next morning for us to leave and journey back—via Eurotunnel this time. Everyone was so grateful to Madame Renaut for her leadership of the trip. A fantastic experience for everyone!

Wilson’s School

A boys’ grammar school in the London Borough of Sutton (UK), Wilson’s School is:

  • committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people and expects all staff and volunteers to share this commitment
  • a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (no. 7536970). Registered office: Mollison Drive, Wallington, Surrey SM6 9JW
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