The Senior School ‘Activities Week’ is traditionally held at the start of the last half of the Summer Term. The week is for pupils in Years 7 to 10, with a huge array of different things running both on site at Saighton Grange, and other activities offsite, whether these be day trips to Chester Zoo or Manley Mere, or residential trips away.
This year the week felt like a celebration after so much has felt unavoidably restricted or limited.
We asked our respective Heads of Year for their thoughts and reflections of the week:
Mr Rowett, Head of Year 10, said: “During Activity Week it was really nice to see the pupils of Abbey Gate genuinely enjoying themselves. In my humble opinion there is a huge amount of pressure placed upon people, both young and old, by today’s society. The week we have all just enjoyed has provided a little light relief for us all, especially once the risk assessments were signed off!
Speaking with our Year 10 pupils, I think their highlight was the trip to Alton Towers; although between Manley Mere, The Boulder Hut, Llandegla Laser Combat, film-making, learning about leadership, and visiting the European battlefields, there was something for everyone – not just the thrill seekers amongst us.
As a community, I believe we are still very much recovering from the pandemic and will be for some time to come. Therefore, giving pupils the opportunity to catch up on some of the experiences they might have missed out on, to socialise (away from the grown-ups of course) and above all else enjoy themselves and be young, has taken on an extra level of importance in more recent times. I often reminisce with old school friends about particular trips or activities, years later we still look back fondly and share a laugh or two about some of the things we got up to. My hope this week is that some memories have been made that our pupils will look back upon fondly. Perhaps even when they are slightly longer in the tooth too.”
Mrs Bennett, Head of Year 9, said: “If I had to sum up ‘Activities Week’ for Year 9 it would be ‘Roller Coaster Ride’, not only as there were plenty of roller coasters involved, but also because it was a significant moment, following a very ‘up and down’ time in the lives of Year 9. ‘Activities Week’ marked the end of the first full academic year that Year 9 pupils have completed at Senior School, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, for all of us living through such turbulent times, I can honestly say that each member of the year group has grown in strength, resilience, and cope-ability as a result.
The week was kick-started by a fun-filled, overnight stay in London, where they visited the Globe theatre, were amazed by the stage production of ‘Back to the Future’, and had a thrilling experience at Chessington World of Adventures. Wednesday was Team Building, with some key skills to be learnt. Not only did pupils develop their strengths as leaders, visionaries, listeners, organisers and doers, but they learnt that ‘you have to be in it to win it’, a poignant phrase as pupils commence their GCSEs, in that they will only get out what they put in; patience produces character, hard work reaps a harvest, those who endure conquer. Finally, for the majority of pupils, the week ended with the Duke of Edinburgh bronze expedition, a long and difficult hike requiring patience, endurance, stickability, motivation, energy and accountability; skills essential in facing the ups and downs and the highs and lows of GCSE and life beyond, and skills which will also enable our pupils to go forth with ‘courage and compassion’. It seems that the deeper the drop, or the loopier the loop, the more our pupils rise to the challenge!”
Mrs Thomas, Head of Year 8, said: “Well, what a week! The Year 8 pupils started with a ‘Dragons Den’ workshop. They competed against each other to design, create and pitch their own ideas for raising money for a charity. Their design ideas were amazing; they really met this challenge head on and created key rings, dog bandannas, cat toys and stress balls. The professional attitude that each team took was seen in their promotional videos and presentations. They then used all these skills in their pitch to win and be hired by the Dragons. Walking around the workshops and music rooms, you could not help but notice the creative atmosphere – it was a real delight. The pupils were enthusiastic to show off their ideas and all keen to win!
In the second half of the week the Year 8s went to PGL Boreatton Park in the Shrewsbury hills. This highly anticipated trip was not a disappointment. Pupils engaged in the giant swing, high ropes, kayaking and sensory walk. These activities required pupils to work as a team, using communication and listening skills. All pupils really raised their game in the different tasks and thoroughly enjoyed the activities. They got very wet in the kayaking on Thursday whilst enjoying several water games, which the staff also participated in. The pupils stayed in a tent village, sleeping in tents outside and they found that the local wildlife even made an appearance, seeing ants, spiders, and frogs. They woke early for breakfast and took part in a morning workout provided by our very own Mr Austen. It was a real pleasure to see how the pupils interacted and engaged in this new and challenging environment. Many of them had to go out of their comfort zones, challenge themselves, push boundaries, trust their peers, and be trusted in return. The best of it, for me though, were the smiles and laughter, the positive buzz in camp, the fun that was had and the memories that were made.”
Mrs Prestwich, Head of Year 7, said: “The second part of our summer term has started with a very fun fulfilled week. Year 7 were unsure about what to expect from ‘Activities Week’, as it was the first time they were experiencing this and I hope it met their expectations. They started with learning circus skills with Jools from Circus Sensible and how to navigate drones. Then, on Tuesday, they were greeted by the sunshine at Chester Zoo and took many fantastic photos that they now need to select and submit for the photo competition the Science department has organised.
Wednesday was spent working in teams to learn about film-making with the Young Film Academy, and to create a short video clip that each group presented to their peers and staff in the theatre at the end of the day. Thursday was a day full of adrenaline with archery, Segway and high ropes adventure at Pursuits at Carden Park. Many had to overcome their initial fears and completed the course by sliding on a rather long and high zip wire! Finally, Friday was spent at Manley Mere kayaking, paddle-boarding and having fun in the Aqua Park.
This year has been quite intense for our pupils and myself too. Year 7 had an important transition from primary school settings to our College, and this without any induction days last year. This was also, perhaps for many, the first year of full-time education on site for a while, which has undoubtedly brought a range of emotional and physical challenges. Regardless of this, Year 7 have embraced all aspects of our community life and displayed determination and resilience throughout their first year in the Senior School at Abbey Gate College.
Last week, I witnessed some apprehension and tears but above all I saw children admirably meeting challenges presented to them. ‘Activities Week’ has consolidated bonds created throughout the year, and hopefully helped our pupils to unwind and recharge before starting the new Year 8 timetable. This was a fantastic week for Year 7 with a buzzing feeling all around!”
Our thanks go to all of our staff who gave so much of their professional and personal time, not only in accompanying, supervising, and being alongside our pupils on these activities, but also in the hours of organisation and planning beforehand.
Planning for next year’s adventures will soon begin!