Our trip to Iceland proved to be a huge adventure braving a storm as we flew to Iceland was just the start. This is a video I put together followed by K Raxter’s own account of the trip.
During the February half term staff and students flew to Iceland for a photography trip, read all about it below:
This trip was incredible! And the place its self couldn’t be more different from England. I would recommend this trip to anyone.
Iceland’s culture is so vivid. The legends or saga as they would call them are very interesting, and riddled with tales of elves and trolls inhabiting the freezing island. If you look into the mountains you can see the faces of the trolls that stayed out partying too long and got turned to stone by the sun. You will learn about these creatures and a lot more! The city is beautiful, bright coloured buildings and amazing architecture surrounded by a tidal cove which is towered over by a breath taking mountain range. This area is perfect for street photography and will make a huge difference in your photo shoots rather than boring old England all the time.
As you leave Reykjavik and go into the beyond it is rather like being in the middle of nowhere. However this is quickly forgotten as the views of the open countryside are spectacular! Any chance you get to take photos of it do. A lot of our time in Iceland was spent in the wilderness, and it was so worth it. Everything we did there was a photo opportunity and as a photography student it was very useful. There are so many wonderful landscapes and scenery like nothing you have ever seen before.
We saw a lot of spectacular sights, glittering waterfalls, monstrous mountains, lava caves that immerse you into darkness, glaciers, geysers, horses and so much more. My favourite and not yet mentioned was the beaches. They had black sand which created a beautiful contrast to the ferocious waves that almost drenched us, as a result of a photo opportunity for Mr Williams. But these beaches where so pretty and well worth the blustery winds that froze a finger or two.
Some of the hotel choices where… questionable, but this didn’t matter much because at the end of the day a good meal and bed was much appreciated.
Every experience in Iceland was incredible and it really is a once in a life time opportunity! Not to mention the difference it makes to your course work. Bring a couple of radiators and jumpers and you will have the time of your life.
The key message for students from this briefing is to continue to stay at home but to keep in touch with friends; on social media but more importantly by speaking with them on the phone, or through a video link. It is important that although we have to physically distance from one another, we continue to maintain our friendships over the weeks and months as may be necessary.
I have been impressed by the way in which students have responded to attending a virtual school, working from home on phones or computers and keeping up with the work being set. It is important that they do what they can to keep up with the work so that when we return they are ready to continue at the same place in the course as everyone else. I have attached to this email an update on our approach to following up on non-engagement from students with the work being set, which I hope you will also find helpful to ensure your child stays in a good routine.
On the other hand, we recognise that working from home can be challenging, that is why following the Easter break we will introduce the following:
- Years 7 and 8 – A more simplified timetable is attached that will lead to fewer pieces of working being set each day which should be more easily managed.
- In Year 9 we will be shortly sending home a letter that confirms your child’s options choices. Following the Easter break they should only continue to complete work for the core subjects of English, maths and science alongside their choices for GCSEs.
- In Year 10 it is important to try to continue with the course otherwise when students return, Year 11 will be even more challenging with so much content still to cover. We have asked our subject leaders to reduce the pace, in order that we endeavour to keep students at the same point on the specification. We will encourage students who are keeping up with the pace to explore topics in greater depth so that they are well placed to access higher tier assessments on their return.
- For students in Year 11, particularly those who are going to continue to study A level we will be releasing transition material which will support a smooth move into the 6th form, wherever that might be. For those students who are moving to vocational courses at College we will no longer be setting work after Easter as they will have finished their GCSE courses. We are still unsure how final GCSE grades will be determined by the government but are in the final stages of determining our own predicted grades which will help inform this process.
We do not intend to set any work over Easter in order to allow students the time to catch-up as needed and to have some time to recuperate.
Although many students are managing to work well at home, we are concerned that a very small number are yet to complete any work, I have asked class teachers to follow this up with the students themselves to find out what is preventing them from doing any work and then to contact parents. We are keen to support you to ensure your child’s education does not suffer over the coming months and appreciate the support you are giving your child to ensure that this is the case.
We experienced another year in which the College continued to grow in so many ways, however amongst many changes one aspect remains true, that at the heart of everything are our students. All who work at Catmose standby the strong belief that every lesson, trip and experience should be good enough for our own children and that so many of us choose the College for their child’s education is testament to the quality of our provision.
In a year of change at GCSE, with more academic courses and the new 1-9 grades Catmose students achieved the highest set of outcomes we have ever seen. This did not happen by chance, but as a result of careful planning by our subject leaders and superb delivery by each and every one of our teachers. The progress our students make whilst with us is likely to place us in the top 10 to 15% of all schools nationally. This is particularly impressive when you consider that we have refused to game the progress 8 system of the ‘open’ basket and instead continue to offer a very broad curriculum that includes music, the arts, drama and philosophy and ethics amongst other academic courses. This means that every Catmose student is very well placed to progress to A levels, or to an FE course or into the world of work as an apprentice.
Our extra-curricular provision also improved last year with more trips, electives and experiences than ever before – too many to list here with over 200 now on offer. My own highlight was joining the photography teachers on a winter tour of Iceland with our GCSE students. We braved winter snow storms, driving rain and freezing temperatures to capture some majestic landscapes that will support student portfolios.
Our DofE also continues to grow with the Federation being the largest state provider in the area for this challenging but rewarding course. It is heartening to speak with students who, following an expedition might have a slight limp after walking 40km but are still determined to progress to the next level of the reward; such was the sense of reward they have from completing the challenge. We have a small team of staff and volunteers who give up endless hours in the evening and at weekends to make this possible, but there is no doubt in my mind that our students are better leaders, team players, who have made a meaningful contribution to their community as a result of their involvement.
Madagascar was a colourful highlight of the Performing Arts calendar last year with make-up, music and choreography that gave everyone a spring in their step. The Christmas concert brought us together with the Oakham community to celebrate the festive season. The Year 7’s performed Aladdin with great enthusiasm, with many of them already looking to audition for this year’s Sister Act production. In November, our remembrance took on additional poignancy by the playing of the Last Post as the whole College stood in silence.
The student council continues to shape our approach to everything we do from reducing our use of plastic to transforming Sports day, so that every student was involved in Sports day including our most IT literate students who updated the Hellerup screens as each event was completed. The sports team also sustained a four-year winning run by beating the other five schools in the area in the Varsity completion.
Everything we do at the College is aimed at developing students who are strong characters with the self-belief and resilience to thrive in the modern world. It was only fitting therefore, that a highlight of the year for many of us was a week celebrating positive mental health with a range of activities including Zumba, Bhangra dancing, mindful colouring and the talent show which brought us all together as a community.
Thank you to everyone who attended our Open Evening last night, it was our busiest one ever, with a lovely atmosphere throughout the evening. I hope that everyone who attended found the evening informative and were able to have any questions they might have had answered. If you have the time we’d also welcome prospective parents to contact us and arrange a tour during a normal College day; there is nothing quite like seeing Catmose when we are going about our normal business.
We will shortly post the video of my presentation but I thought many of you might also like to see the slides and outcomes information I shared last night. We are proud of our Year 11 results which are likely to place us in the top 10 or 15% of schools nationally for the progress our students make whilst with us. We offer only courses that our students will benefit from in the future and have avoided gaming our results by choosing courses that don’t allow students to progress further to A level which makes our progress even more impressive.
We are equally proud of the broad range of opportunities we offer to challenge and inspire our students from the Duke of Edinburgh award to expeditions to Sumatra, Ghana and Nepal. Our rich tradition of sporting success speaks for itself, as does our four year winning streak against all of the local schools in the Varsity competition. We also offer a rich programme of music and performance through the electives and our productions which start with Year 7 students performing a West End show in the summer term.
Catmose is unique in our ethos which is based on trusting our students, allowing them to arrive early and stay late, to access to all of our award winning facilities and to be equally valued alongside staff for the contributions they make to our community. This was in great evidence last night with so many of our students joining staff to make our Open Evening the successful one it was.
We experienced an incredible week in Iceland. Each excursion gave us all an opportunity to improve our photography skills within a spectacular context. Pippa Sanger, our trip leader, is to be congratulated for the planning she did before the trip and her meticulous organisation during it to ensure everything went smoothly. The highlight of the trip for me however was the time spent with our students who embraced everything that was thrown at them (quite literally in the case of the weather). We walked in snow blizzards, wind and rain. We crossed rivers, climbed hills and got wet every day but the students remained interested in every aspect of the trip. It was a privilege to share the experience with them.
We started our trip with a bracing walk amongst mud pools and steam vents with dramatic views of the vigorously bubbling Gunnuhver, Iceland’s largest mud pool. We also had the opportunity to view Reykjanesviti Iceland’s oldest lighthouse.
The following day with the weather due to make a turn for the worse we headed for the magnificent waterfall of Skógafoss. It is one of Iceland’s most impressive waterfalls – with a wide, thundering curtain of water 60m high.
Onto Vik, a tiny coastal town, we walked down to the black sand beach and viewed the remarkable sea stacks – Reynisdrangar.
The weather made a turn for the worse and so our visit to the glacier was curtailed due to a snow blizzard. Sólheimajökull ‘sun house glacier’ has been retreating since the end of the 19th century at a rate of around 100m per year. The photographs captured were magnificent despite the inclement weather.
The weather continued to worsen and so that evening we missed what would have been a spectacular display of the northern lights. We headed off early the following day, driving through the storm before visiting Seljalandsfoss, this waterfall’s plume spills 60m over a former sea cliff. From Seljalandsfoss, we walked along the cliff base to Gljúfrabúi waterfall – it’s hidden inside a gorge and we needed walking boots and rainproof gear as we needed to walk through a river to enter the canyon!
Off to rainy Reykjavik for an afternoon of shopping and getting very wet. The coach at one point drove through what we thought was a river – it was simply the road!
The National park of Thingvellir is where Iceland’s parliament was established in 930AD. The site straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, its rift valley forming where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates pull apart at an average of 3cm a year.
Gulfoss are double falls, dropping around 33m then plunge into a mile-long gorge – one of Iceland’s most photographed waterfalls; we certainly took a few ourselves!
One of our favourite stops was to meet the Icelandic ponies.
The Geysir eruption was something to behold, if a little tricky to capture!
On our last day we took the opportunity for street photography around Reykjavik before flying back home. Alas the Aurora proved elusive although some of us managed to capture it with our cameras even if we couldn’t see it with the naked eye.
Student photographs from the trip: