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Thursday 09 March

Sense of Humour Required!

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As we prepare ourselves to welcome new Intenational students in September and will, inevitably be saying farewell to some, either at the end of this term, or at the end of the summer, Head of our EAL (English as an Additional Language) department, Guy Monk, says that students coming to West Buckland will gain friendship, skills, language, knowledge and a sense of humour!

International students at West Buckland School are amazing! Studying in another country where the weather can be cold and grey, the food is strange (!), everything is done in English and the educational culture is different, requires strength and courage. All our international students are fantastic; just for being here.

Sense of Humour Required!

If Mr Bohl, Mrs Cartmell, Mrs Episkopos and I could build a perfect EAL student, what would they be like? Firstly, they’d laugh at our jokes! In addition, they’d get involved in the life of the school. We understand that it can be difficult, perhaps frightening, to leave your room and join in an activity. However, playing football, badminton or basketball, going to the Socrates or Phoenix debating clubs, or joining one of the many other available activities will help a student make friends, improve their English and have fun.

The Importance of Immersion

Our perfect student would immerse themselves in the language. They would read books, short stories, magazines, internet articles, newspapers, etc. They would listen to English radio, watch English films and listen to pop music with English lyrics. They would mix with a range of students, not just people from their own country. They would realise that their English is the key to success and would make every effort to develop their English throughout their school career and beyond.

What we do in EAL

The EAL (English as an additional language) Department aims to support all students who need to improve their English. That means developing the language they need to survive and flourish in the social and everyday life of the school, the language they need in their lessons and to do their homework, and the language they need for exams, such as IELTS, the university entrance exam. Hopefully, students feel that EAL classrooms are a safe place, where they can learn and try out new language, take risks and make mistakes.

Learning Culture as well as Language

If an international student starts in September, within a short time they have experienced Halloween, Bonfire Night and Remembrance Day, probably with little knowledge of why these events take place or the background to them. The EAL teachers help students learn about British culture and some of the stories behind the events and celebrations that happen throughout the year. Students also get the opportunity to discuss their own national or regional celebrations.

Friendship and Academic Success

This is my third year at West Buckland School and I have had the privilege of working with students from over 15 different countries. Watching students arrive unsure of themselves, in a strange environment and out of their comfort zone, seeing them gain confidence, make friendships and develop their language, and then seeing them leave with new friends, better English and having achieved academic success is a genuine pleasure.

The EAL Department looks forward to welcoming more amazing students from around the world and we hope that we can be part of the West Buckland team that supports them and enables them to achieve the success they deserve.

Friday 27 January

How Old Are We?

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Having been a master at West Buckland for a number of years, and now the schools' archivist and historian, Berwick Coates knows the history of West Buckland School better than anyone. Here he clears up some confusion over the age of the school and us gives a fascinating insight into the school's founder, The Revd. Joseph Lloyd Brereton and his vision for 'county' schools.

If you are a well-informed member of the school, you will know that it was founded in 1858.  So, by simple arithmetic (if you have a calculator handy), you can work out that, in this year of grace, 2017, it is 159 years old.  But if you are extremely well-informed – like, say, the School Archivist – you will know that the school is only 105 years old.

No catch. No trick. Just a matter of names.

 When the Revd.Joseph Lloyd Brereton founded the school, his idea was that the boys would do lessons in the school house in the morning; in the afternoon, they would work on the school farm.  They would sell the produce, and the income from that would help to pay for the upkeep of the school – buildings, books, meals, staff salaries, and so on.  (The rest of the money would come from investors, who would be given dividends from the profits every year.)

 Profits?  With only three pupils to begin with?   It takes very little insight to realise that there were going to be very few profits with a set-up like this.  It was typical of Brereton; in a long life, he was forever hatching wonderful schemes for advancing education, and making money, very few of which ever came to anything.

 West Buckland did, but not by virtue of being the ‘West Buckland Farm and County School’, which was Brereton`s first name for it.  That very speedily faded into the mist of broken dreams.  But Brereton kept the ‘County’ bit.  His idea was for a nation-wide network of secondary schools for the sons of middle-class people in every county.  Hence ‘county’.  Therefore, the West Buckland Farm and County School became simply the ‘Devon County School’.

 As such, it thrived.  Pupil numbers soon rose above a hundred.  The DCS became a national celebrity as the first successful secondary school for the ‘middle class’.  Journalists wrote articles about it.  Celebrities came to visit it.  It came top of the league in exam passes three times, against competition like Manchester Grammar School.  Two archbishops of Canterbury came down to present the prizes (not together, of course – separately).

Then, towards the end of the century, the country suffered an agricultural depression.  Local farmers, as well as local butchers, bakers, and candlestick-makers found that they could no longer make ends meet.  They had to make economies.  They took their sons away from the school.  By the 1890`s, the school was not doing well.  It nearly closed twice.  Numbers dropped as low as 31.  Dividends were no longer being paid.  Something Would Have to be Done.

It was.  A new headmaster was appointed.  The school company was put into liquidation, and the shareholders were persuaded to give up their investments.  The county council agreed to put in a grant, so long as the school promised a few places to bright sons of local citizens.  The school income was to come in future entirely from fees, all of which were to be spent on the school, not on dividends.

At a meeting in Barnstaple on the 24th May, 1912, in the solicitor`s office, the Devon County School officially died, and a new one rose in its place – ‘West Buckland School’.

Take 1912 away from 2017, and what do you get?  Exactly – 105 years.  So now you know.

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Having just been received a conditional offer to read Physics at St Peter's College, Oxford, Year 13 student Tom Perry gives some interesting insights into the daunting Oxbridge interview process and how best to prepare.

When applying for Oxford, or Cambridge, you must either apply to one of the 38 colleges or for an open-college application. I applied to St John’s, Oxford, but I was assigned to St Peter’s, as St John ’s didn’t have enough space. This happens with some applicants, so do not be alarmed if it happens to you as it doesn’t really matter in the long run.

Arriving off the train, the daunting interviews lay ahead of me, but the beautiful city, with its archaic shopfronts, winding backstreets and atmospheric high street lifted my spirits on the journey to St Peter’s College. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a team of students eager to help and show me round. I was given a brief tour and a pack of useful information.

My interview period was over two days, I spent these in St Peter’s accommodation.  All applicants stay in a standard first-year room in order to get a good feeling of what it would be like. My room had a brick archway in the middle but was very spacious with a great layout and a sink, I shared a bathroom with three others. The raised area with a desk in the room provided a great environment in which to work.

I mainly revised my Physics knowledge the night before my first interviews and that evening had the opportunity to speak to the other students in the Dining Hall. They came from a variety of backgrounds but all were keen to talk about their main worries for interview and how theirs had gone already. The main worry seemed to concern being asked about books they had claimed to have read in their personal statement, but hadn’t. Everyone was incredibly friendly and were all trying their best to calm the others.

In the useful information pack I was given, I had a timetable for the coming days. On the morning of the first day, an informal orientation meeting was arranged. However, I was timetabled to attend an interview at my second-choice college at the same time so, unfortunately, missed it and therefore missed out on some vital information. I had two interviews at my first-choice college and one at my second-choice, Lady Margaret Hall.

The interviews were nowhere near as horrific as they have been made out to be. Mine consisted of answering several tricky Maths and Physics questions on paper. All three interviews were conducted by a panel of two different college tutors. They led the session in a similar manner to that of a tutorial lesson here at school. They made me feel at ease and did their best to work through the catching points in the questions with me and tried to teach me more about the subject matter at the same time. They were just looking to see if I would fit in well with the tutorial style of teaching and had sufficient aptitude with the subject.

If I could do it again with my knowledge now, I would tell myself to remain calm and not fall into a state of panic after each falter. They expect you to make mistakes, they are looking to see how you deal with this. Also, I would recommend talking through technical aspects of your subject with someone who has similar interests to you, whether that be a teacher, parent or friend to become more accustomed to the level of precision in discussion that they are looking for.

I enjoyed the experience greatly and I wish anyone who is applying the very best of luck.

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At the end of an exciting term of boarding, we hear from Shaun Morrison, Lead Houseparent of Boyer (our boys’ boarding house) who tells us about a term of busy schedule of boarders’ activity, a particularly momentous event in his own life and some healthy inter-boarding-house rivalry!

It all started off so well… at the beginning of term we were barefoot playing volleyball and slacklining out at the front of school; and now as we are approaching Christmas we’re gritting the walkways and running to the Karslake between squalls to avoid getting blown off our feet. The Autumn Term’s length is not to be scoffed at, and the boarders have done remarkably well in staying enthusiastic right up to the end.

Despite our ‘boarding entertainment budget’ being less than excessive, we live by the motto that there is no creativity without constraint. Even last week Mrs Booker showed her culinary creativity by running a Great WBS Bake Off in which the boarding participants producing some fantastic (and admittedly some wonderfully weird) results. A few weeks ago Mr Conlon ran a Take-Me-Out-Come-Blind-Date style event where the eventual dates had a candlelit dinner in the Karslake (eating the same food as everyone else of course). And Mrs Turner, together with her team, worked their magic with the Boarders’ Christmas Ball last weekend.

I’m also going to give an important mention to Mr and Mrs Ford - often they are the first people we turn to when we need guidance and they have been rocks!

On a personal note, I have been heavily involved in all my standard activities: we now have a healthy, regular group of boarders going to Saturday morning ParkRuns in Barnstaple; volleyball is going well – we usually have a few ‘legendary’ rallies every session; boarders’ badminton is proving really popular and everyone is improving – I hope to continue improving as well (hopefully to beat Benson Tai one day).

For me, a couple of big things have changed this year: firstly, Mrs Morrison and myself started our new family with the birth of our daughter Effie Morrison; and, secondly, the levels of rivalry between Boyer and Bamfylde (girls’ boarding house) have reached new levels of pettiness. It turns out that my new counterpart in Bamfylde, Mrs Bailey, is incredibly competitive. For example, I told Mrs Bailey that I’m planning to redecorate Boyer slowly with pictures and framed work; the next thing I know, she’s commandeered the Artist-in-Residence, (the too nice) Zoe Roberts, and she’s making artwork for the entirety of her boarding house!  The challenge has been laid down!

I’ve had a fantastic first term as Boyer’s Lead Houseparent working with the wonderful boarding team. I’m looking forward to seeing the boys in the New Year, even with their inevitably questionable haircuts.

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