Year 11 Design and Technology Trip to the Paper Trail, Hemel Hempstead

On Tuesday 22nd October, Mrs Schillaci-Rowland, Mrs Hayhurst and Mr Warren took the Year 11 Design and Technology students to the Paper Trail in Hemel Hempstead.

The students watched a presentation and demonstration about paper and boards, given by Sue, one of the members of staff at the Paper Mill.  There were some fascinating facts about the history of paper, as well as the surrounding area (the first place to manufacture paper in the world), and how the Paper Mill had been a huge part of the paper industry, and is the only site to have a working Fourdrinier machine making bespoke paper.  They also have a 10-year plan in place to become a Papermaking Centre of Excellence.

The students were then split into groups to undertake three workshops: papermaking, a tour of the Paper Mill in action, and a letterpress workshop, too. The students came away with their own pieces of paper that they had made, as well as a printed sheet they had produced in the letterpress workshop.

The tour of the Mill was very informative, and the students asked lots of questions about the process.  It was incredible to physically see how quickly paper is made from pulp, which takes minutes to go from very wet, to a crisp, piece of paper.  The Paper Mill make a lot of sustainable paper for big companies, such as banana paper for Lush, and also for events such as Wimbledon, where grass is mixed into the paper to give it a luxurious feel.

The trip will certainly prepare our students for their GCSE exam next summer, and the hands-on experience has also helped them to visualise the processes involved in making paper and boards. The students’ behaviour was outstanding (as commented on by the staff at the Mill) which made the trip thoroughly enjoyable for the staff, too. Thank you Year 11!

Mrs Schillaci-Rowland
Design and Technology

Government & Politics trip to Parliament

On Friday 27th September, our Year 12 Government and Politics class visited the Houses of Parliament. We went on a fabulous (and very informative) tour, during which we saw the House of Commons and the Lords, the voting lobby for MPs, Westminster Abbey, central lobby, and many more fascinating rooms in Parliament.

We also learned about the history of Parliament, the day-to-day running of Westminster, and the importance of the role of the Speaker of the House of Commons. Our lovely tour guides were great and answered our many questions!

We then attended a law making and debating workshop, where we learnt the fundamental rules for carrying out a proper, democratic debate. We also learned about the process in which laws are made and changed. Two speakers (one an ex-Presdales student) talked to us about their roles in Parliament, and the vast job opportunities the House of Commons and Parliament offer, such as Select Committee assistants, IT and graphics/creative consultants, education branches, and, of course, MPs!

It was a very inspiring and interesting trip, and we all feel we walked away from it knowing so much more about how our government and Parliament works. Thank you to Mr Spurgeon and Ms Chandler for organising the trip and navigating the tube with us!

“Within the trip we had a debating workshop, were we learned how they debate in the House of Commons. I got the privilege to be the speaker of the house. In this role I decided who could speak next and when it got too loud to say ‘order, order’. The workshop was amazing, as it taught us how to structure a debate, to make sure everyone’s voices are heard” Katy Higham

“It was a great atmosphere, especially considering the current political climate” Grace Richards

“The workshop we did on law making & debating was really interesting and the career paths available in Parliament seem like amazing opportunities” Connie Marshall

“There were little bits of history everywhere we went. Seeing the MPs’ voting lobbies and being able to walk down them was fascinating” Jamie Parker

“It was really interesting to see it all in real life” Connie Robinson

“We learned loads about the complex history of Parliament, and seeing all the possible careers there really opened our eyes to what Parliament does” Safia Sipi

One student Meg Sleath said this about the workshop, “I thought it was really interesting to see how a proper debate would work, especially as we were debating a current, divisive issue. It was very enjoyable!”


Year 9 Visit to Sandhurst

On the 26th and 27th of September 2019, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst welcomed around two thousand young people for their Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths careers fair, RMAS STEM 19. Forty-nine industry partners, as well as units from across the Army, joined the Army to showcase STEM skills in action.

30 Year 9 Students attended this event: a fantastic opportunity for the students to explore different STEM careers, we were also fortunate to witness the Army’s first all-female parachute display team who landed onto the lawn in front of Old College.

A big thank you to EduFund who partially funded this trip.

“On Thursday 26th September we went to The Sandhurst Military Academy. It was such a good, inspiring event. We saw so many different companies who help improve our technology and the military. When we arrived, we split into groups to look at around all the stands; this was a fun and interactive experience, with leaflets and free pens and bags. There were also Army Troops scattered around who told us about what they do and how all the different types of machinery work. It was an exhilarating trip and I would love to do it again.” Mariam Shakir

“We loved the range of activities offered there and we are happy we got the opportunity to learn more about STEM subjects and professions. The talk given was very inspiring and made us think about our future careers. Would definitely recommend.” Lucy and Ruby

“Sandhurst had lots of new and interesting job ideas and we found out a lot about STEM jobs. There were lots of interactive things like quizzes, VR headsets, building things, playing games to win prizes and Army trucks to look at. We saw lots of new ideas for jobs and now we are more interested in this industry.” Sophie and Emma

Robotics Action

Congratulations to the girls who took part in the first Robotics competition of the session. This took place at John Warner School on the 28th September.

This seasons competition is called ‘Tower Takeover’.

VEX Robotics Competition Tower Takeover is played on a 12’x12’ square field configured as seen above. Two (2) Alliances – one (1) “red” and one (1) “blue” – composed of two (2) Teams each – compete in matches consisting of a fifteen (15) second Autonomous Period, followed by a one minute and forty-five second (1:45) Driver Controlled Period.

The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing Alliance by placing Cubes in Towers, or scoring Cubes in Goals.

The Presdales School finished the day in 13th position.

Many thanks to the continued support from EduFund.

Physics Trip: PPMA Convention, Birmingham (3rd October 2019)

The 2019 PPMA physics trip was aimed at exposing Presdales physics students to engineering (mainly in the food industry).

We were given a private tour around a few selected stands, where experts in different engineering fields talked to us about their individual aspects of engineering including: packaging, the use of lasers in safety sensors in factories, the use of UV light in hygiene and the use of automated machines. Furthermore, we saw demonstrations of packaging machines in action. Manufactures also addressed how they are striving to reduce the use of plastic in food packaging by either cutting down the amount of material used to package an item or by changing to more environmentally friendly material solutions. Everyone was given the opportunity to have a VR experience of what it is like to be inside Bloodhound (a car currently being developed to break the land speed record). Soon after, we programmed gyroscope robots to push balls into goal areas: Presdales School set that day’s record of 10 balls.

A presentation was given by a local Hertfordshire engineering company, promoting apprenticeships as well as what it is to be a mechanical engineer. In addition, another speaker told us about his journey through his engineering career.

I thoroughly enjoyed this trip as there were interactive tasks and I was inspired to take a deeper look into what physics as a subject could do for me in my future.

Georgia Ridley (Year 12)

Drama News

A Doll’s House, The Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith

On 18th September, A Level drama students went to see an adaptation of Ibsen’s classic play, A Doll’s House, re-written by Tanika Gupta and new artistic director Rachel O’Riordan at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. We see the production set in Calcutta 1879 under British rule, bringing new dimensions to the production of racial politics alongside the classic portrayal of female perspective and ownership. The students have since led some great debates on the naturalistic classic and already produced some interesting responses to the Section A Live Theatre section of their exam.

Miss Mack
Head of Dram

Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue

Year 11 GCSE Drama students went to see ‘Everyone’s Talking About Jamie’ at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue on Wednesday 25th September. The students were experiencing live theatre in preparation for their Component 3 examination where they will discuss their response to the production and demonstrate their theatrical knowledge. The students really enjoyed the production which is based on a true story of a young man named Jamie New, who wants to attend his school prom in a dress. The show explores many current issues of identity, self-expression and having the strength to be true to who you are. Year 11 students made mountains of notes during the performance and have returned to the classroom full of ideas that they are ready to discuss in their written exam! Thank You to Mrs Hetherington and Mr Rock for supporting us on the trip and to the GCSE Students who were exemplary all day!

Miss Mack
Head of Drama

Peter Gynt, The National Theatre

A Level Drama and Theatre students attended a matinee production of Peter Gynt at The National Theatre on Tuesday 1st October. This was their second theatre trip in two weeks, allowing them to see a very different approach to classic theatre by the great Henrik Ibsen, often known for naturalism! This modern adaptation by David Hare sees Ibsen’s hero run away into the 21st century, whilst still raising the original dramatic poem’s question: Does a belief in individualism help or hinder us in trying to live purposefully in the present day? The students’ heads were spinning after the 3 1/2 hour production which raises some big questions about life!

Thank you to Miss Murrell for supporting us on the trip and to the A Level students who were exemplary and a pleasure to spend the day with! Good luck with your analysis now on what it all meant!

Miss Mack
Head of Drama

Vietnam World Challenge 2019

World Challenge

Over the summer, I had the amazing opportunity to take part in the World Challenge expedition to Vietnam and Laos. My team was a mix of year 11 and 12 students, with 13 girls and one very lucky boy. Prior to the trip, none of us knew each other very well; however this swiftly changed as soon as we departed on a tedious 8 hour flight, with only each other for company.

Once we had finally arrived in Bangkok, we quickly got to the hostel, dumped our bags, and began to explore the lively city. It only took a five minute walk down the street to see things ranging from barbecued spiders to beautiful hand-stitched clothing. We decided to settle in a busy restaurant with upbeat, local music and an incredible view of the city at night. We took this opportunity to try some local food whilst admiring the string of neon lights that were suspended above the whole street. Here, we had the chance to chat about the trip ahead of us and assign people to different teams: accommodation, finance, food, travel and extra activities. Although our travel and accommodation had been pre-booked for our first few nights, it wasn’t always going to be like that…
The next morning we took another flight from Thailand to Vietnam, to eventually arrive in the city of Hoi An, where we would spend the next three nights. In my opinion, this was the best city of the whole trip. It was an area brimming with culture but maintaining a relaxed energy. We were amazed by its stunning markets and quaint temples, whilst also having the chance to take a night boat ride along the river, surrounded by glowing lanterns.

Our next destination was Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. To get there, we took the overnight train, which was something I had never experienced before. As you walked down the train there were cabins with six beds in each compartment, three stacked up on each other. The next 24 hours went surprisingly quickly while we admired the Vietnamese countryside and talked to locals in the cabins next to us.

Our first day in Hanoi was exciting but hectic. This was the first day where we had to find our own accommodation and travel, which was a lot harder than expected. Despite this, we managed to find an amazing hotel to stay in, within budget, and began exploring the city. After walking, for what felt like miles, we finally found the perfect place to eat: a little restaurant right at the top of a high rise building, which had a stunning view of the whole of Hanoi. This was a lovely way to spend our last night before the trek.

The next morning, thankfully, the coach we had booked turned up and we started our journey to Quynh Son. The next three nights were a shock, but in a good way. The trek was very challenging, especially in 38 degree heat, whilst carrying a rucksack containing a lot of unnecessary kit. Despite this physical challenge, our team managed to keep up morale as we enjoyed many breath-taking views of mountainous peaks, sprawling rice fields and sweeping valleys. One of the best bits of the trek was the home stays. This was where we stayed in houses in small villages with local families. It was amazing to talk to the villagers about their daily lives and to bond with the families. By living like the locals in these villages, it allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in their culture.
After a very tiring few nights, we finally got back to Hanoi to relax and discover more of the city. Additionally we booked a trip to Halong Bay, a beautiful natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we spent the day on our own boat, admiring the amazing caves and beaches.

Our next stage was a three day journey to Luang Prabang, Laos. On the second day of the journey, we celebrated one of our team member’s birthday with a karaoke night. The whole team, including the leaders, came together and performed songs for the whole evening.

Once arriving in Luang Prabang, we didn’t waste any time before we were out exploring their renowned night market. It definitely lived up to our expectations and possibly exceeded them. The food was incredible, with barbeques to buffets to smoothies to waffles; everything you could imagine. The markets are where we spent most of our evenings, after working at the bear sanctuary.
Our community phase in Luang Prabang, was based at a bear sanctuary with the charity Free the Bears. In Laos there is a huge problem with people capturing bears and using them to extract their bile, which is used as a medical remedy. The charity takes in these bears and looks after them until they are ready to go back into the wild. We helped by cleaning out the cages, feeding the bears and even building a wall for a new enclosure. It was amazing to see the work they had done for the bears and that they were expanding their sanctuary to take in other animals, like monkeys or red pandas, which are also in danger. Additionally we visited another bear sanctuary at Kuang Si Waterfalls, and had the chance to swim in the beautiful waterfalls.

As we were coming towards the end of our trip, we went on trek in Luang Namtha. Using our previous experience, we packed at lot more lightly and were much more prepared. This trek was a lot cooler, as it was mainly based in the jungle and rice fields. We visited another village called Nam Ha Village and stayed with members of the Khmu tribe. We spent most of the second day with all the families and played games with the children. In the evening we were treated to a dance show put on by the locals and we even joined in towards the end!

To end our trip, we went to the Manda Lao Elephant Sanctuary, which also focused on taking care of animals. This was an insane experience to get so close to the elephants, stroking and feeding them all together, whilst knowing they were being taken care of.

Despite the challenges I faced whilst being there, I definitely would do it again and it has given me the confidence to go travelling in the future. I have also come out with a whole group of new friends and acquired skills that I would never have gained without going on this trip. I would definitely urge you to sign up to next trip to Nepal, you won’t regret it!

Alicia Fautrero-Sayer (Year 13)


D’Avenia Heaven at the Oxford Literary Festival