A group of students and teachers have returned from Kenya after two weeks, spending time with our partnership school - a link that was established and has been maintained for thirteen years and counting. Matt Brimson reports on the trip:
As part of the school's long-running partnership with Agoro Oyombe Secondary School, near Lake Victoria, thirty-three students from Years 11-13 and six teachers recently visited Kenya. Led by Head of Sixth Form, Matt Brimson, who founded the link in 2005 with Frederick Odhiambo, the students attended lessons with their Kenyan peers, took part in a whole school debate on technology, performed a song at the evening of culture and continued the tradition of competing in several sports fixtures - a resounding win for the girls in the netball fixture was tempered somewhat by losses in football, volleyball and cross-country. Meanwhile the teachers taught lessons and observed many others in what was outstanding professional development for all. Mrs Kent, using the trumpets, flutes and clarinets which had been donated, taught several Kenyan students how to play the instruments so that they could play a simple tune at the evening of culture. Mr Hathway led sessions on first aid and team building, Mrs Thompson led tennis coaching sessions, while Miss Venner and Mrs Pugsley taught lessons in Mathematics and English respectively.
In addition, to their time in the secondary school, the students also spent two days in the adjacent feeder primary school. Here, they attended lessons again, but this time in the role of classroom assistants as well as students. In both primary and secondary schools, both the Kenyan and UK students learnt much from each other, not least that they often share similar visions for the future. Nevertheless, many of the West Buckland students also identified some of the differences: the class sizes and level of resources among others. As such, it was a pleasure to be able to purchase, using the funds raised by several students and a recent carol concert collection, over a hundred pairs of shoes and several hundred pencils for use in the primary school plus stationery and a commitment to raise further funds for the science laboratory in the secondary school. Finally, substantial sanitary items for girls were purchased and donated in order to enable these required by these students to improve their school attendance record.
Given the above, it is fantastic, therefore, that the joint-curricular projects that have been such a successful feature of the partnership are being renewed through the medium of the United Nations' 'Merit First' initiative which encourages schools to take part in activities which help work towards the Sustainable Development Goals. At West Buckland, this will be one of the remits of a newly formed International Society.
The final part of the trip involved more tourist related activities, which provided some further highlights for the group. Following a coach journey from Lake Victoria to Lake Naivasha in the Rift Valley via the tea plantations of Kericho and the growing city of Nakuru, the group cycled and walked through Hell's Gate National Park, including the famous Pride Rock, and enjoyed a boat safari on Lake Naivasha. From there, the group experienced two unforgettable safaris, including one at dawn, in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, where animals from lions, giraffes and cheetahs to hippos, elephants and hyenas were spotted in addition to thousands of wildebeest on their annual migration from the Serengeti.
It was an unforgettable trip and the students (and teachers) were a credit to themselves, their families, school and country. The link with Agoro Oyombe has lasted for thirteen years and it is hoped that it will continue for years to come. The next trip for our students will hopefully be in 2021.
West Buckland pupil James Tyson has just returned from South Africa where he has been on tour with Devon County U15 cricket team for 16 days. The team played 6 matches including two 2 day matches and a day/night match. Here James tells us about his once-in-a-lifetime trip.
The Kruger National Park, Cape Town and the whole South Africa experience was even better than I could have imagined. In fact it was simply awesome.
We left Devon with temperatures around two degrees and 18 hours and 6,000 miles later we arrived in Skukuza capital of Kruger National Park to temperatures of 35 degrees and humid! Our hard work during winter training sessions proved essential to ensure we were fit to play competitively in these sweltering conditions.
After winning our first game against the JRA Academy XI we enjoyed a fantastic game drive in one of the largest game reserves in Africa. To see the cheetahs, lions, elephants and other wild animals up so close was amazing.
After winning all of our fixtures in Kruger and, most pleasingly, the 'Battle of the Kruger', we headed off on the next leg of our tour, flying to Cape Town and I had my first experience of a day/night game played with a white ball under floodlights. The white ball was very different to the red ball and it was hard to pick out of the floodlights. We were all a bit bemused when this game had to be abandoned due to a thunderstorm because there had been a three-year drought in Cape Town up until this point – we roll up and it rains! But we realised it was very important for the locals. However we still managed a win under the Duckworth-Lewis method.
For our next match we played Newlands Cricket School in the shadows of the Football World Cup Stadium. After this game we went up to the top of Table Mountain and watched the sun go down over Cape Town.
We visited Newlands Cricket Ground early the next morning for a team photo and it was easy to see why it is described as one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the world, being overlooked by Table Mountain and Devil's Peak but surprisingly the playing field was not as big as I had expected. There have been 55 Test matches played here and it is home the National South African team whose nickname is The Proteas.
We played our match this day at Western Province Cricket Club and here the groundsman proudly told us how India had played on this wicket two weeks previously. We were expecting it to be an absolute belter so were a little disappointed when we found it to be pretty average. However it was the most stunning ground I've ever played on with the backdrop of the iconic Table Mountain, and we performed well and came close to winning but they held on for a draw.
We were then taken on a tour of Langa Township, a suburb of Cape Town and it was noticeable how everything was all very clean and well organised in the homes and how happy everyone seemed. Langa has produce some prominent South African sportsmen including wicket-keeper Thami Tsolekile.
For our final game we received our biggest cricketing lesson! In a 50-over match we bowled WP out for a respectable 243 but lost by 181 runs as we were demolished by an amazing spell of fast bowling from South African Salmaan Ajam who took 7 for 9 in 5 overs! Afterwards our hosts provide us with a delicious braai (BBQ) which we all enjoyed together.
We donated and brought from home four bags full of kit which we gave to young cricketers who needed kit.
I would like to say a huge thank Mark Ansell, Tour Manager, all my coaches and everyone who has generously supported me and made it possible for me to be part of this amazing cricket tour; I will remember it forever.
As Britain’s Kyle Edmund continues his fantastic run at the Australian Open tennis, the boys at West Buckland School are looking ahead to the Summer Term fixture card. Winter training is very much underway and recent competitions for several of our boys have certainly been a fantastic stage for gaining valuable experience.
Rodrigo Anzules-Martinez (Prep 6) has been very busy taking part in tournaments across the South West. His success and experience on the courts has earned him Devon selection against Cornwall in Plymouth later this month. Freddie Lloyd (Prep 3) won a Grade 4 tournament in Cardiff and Lincoln Boden (Prep 3) won Grade 4 in Taunton and a Grade 3 competition in Gloucestershire, all between Christmas and New Year.
In the senior school, Toby Watts (Year 8) has taken part in competitions in Taunton and Cardiff as well as achieving success at U14 and U16 level in Sherbourne. Toby and his partner Eddy Pope (Year 8) were also the U13 Winter series winners at the North Devon Schools' competition in December.
Meanwhile, the senior boys are preparing to warm up after half term. Using the floodlit courts for team building and training time, boys’ tennis captain, Brad Phillips, will be looking to lead his team to a consecutive unbeaten season.
Next local competitions: Tarka Tennis Centre
U12 Boys and Girls - Grade 4 - Sunday 4th February
All age groups - Girls and Boys - Half Term Grade 3 - 11th-16th February
I have just auditioned for the National Children’s Orchestra (NCO) for the fifth time. The first time sadly I was not accepted but I was determined and I auditioned again the following year and was delighted to be accepted.
The NCO was founded in 1978 to provide younger musicians with an opportunity to develop their talent in a national symphonic orchestra. In NCO there is an orchestra for each year group (from 7 to 14). We each have three residential courses during the year. These last for just over a week and at the end of the week we perform a concert for parents and paying public. I have played at Leeds Town Hall and at Birmingham Town Hall as well as the Symphony Hall around the corner. Playing in such wonderful venues, with phenomenally talented peers, has been such an inspiration to me. It has certainly changed my attitude to practising!
We also have the option to join a Regional orchestra which meets every month in term time. I love NCO so much because I have many friends I have met through the Regional and National orchestras. It is a kind yet challenging environment where you play lots of classical and modern music in a full orchestra setting. I have learnt how to listen to each part of the orchestra and how important counting bars is and most of all that you must to watch the conductor!
In my most recent concert we played excerpt from the last movement of Beethoven’s 5th symphony as well as more modern pieces for example a medley from the musical “Oliver!”.
If you love playing in bands or want to try playing in the orchestra, I would thoroughly recommend that you audition for NCO!