We said farewell to our visitors from Shenzhen on Friday at a special assembly attended by the Years 7, 8 and 9 students. Jack, Winnie and Carol, three of the Winter School visitors, made very touching farewell speeches and there was a real sense of having grown together in friendship. We had hopes that the visit would help both our students and visitors to grow in understanding of each other’s culture and it was clear that this had been achieved. There was a real sense of togetherness amongst all the students.

We were delighted to have feedback too from the Chinese staff that their students found our staff to be excellent teachers.

The visiting students treated us to a recounting of a Chinese folktale, set to music and we repaid the complement with a number from the upcoming musical Sweeney Todd. Somewhat different in style to the folktale, it was uproariously funny and I hope you will all be able to come along to the Haverhill Arts Centre and enjoy the show for yourselves in a fortnight’s time. (Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th March at 7 pm https://www.haverhillartscentre.co.uk/whats-on/sweeney-todd-the-shock-n-roll-show ).

We also had visitors from Cantabria, in northern Spain, last week. We have introduced Spanish to the Year 7 and 8 curriculum this year and these year groups had the opportunity to spend the day with the visiting Spanish students. They spent the morning in groups of six, three Spanish children and three Stoke students, working at tables in the Performing Art Building preparing bilingual presentations. Our students had to speak in Spanish and the visitors in English. There was a great buzz in the room and everyone enjoyed the experience.

In the afternoon they then work on a creative art project together with Mr. Reeves producing some very impressive hand illusion images, inspired by the artist Escher.

On Friday it was the turn of members of Year 10 to be with the Spanish visitors, accompanying them to Duxford Air Museum with Mrs. Smith and Mr. Jaina. It was interesting to hear that the history curriculum in Spain is quite different from the UK and much of content of the exhibits about the Second World War were entirely new for the Spanish children. Their curriculum focuses much more on the Spanish Civil War.

The visitors seemed to very much enjoy our students’ company and one or two of our boys seemed particularly popular with the Spanish girls!

I would like to express a big ‘thank-you’ to Mrs. Smith for arranging this visit and we are looking forward to the return trip to Spain next term.

Friday was our Prep Open Morning for which we had a good turnout, only to be capped by a very busy Senior School and Sixth Form Open Morning on Saturday. Thank you again to everyone who supported these events. It seems that the good news about Stoke is circulating more widely and we have had good numbers expressing an interest in joining us in September.

The Sixth Form options deadline passed this week and we will begin to structure the curriculum for next year’s Lower Sixth very shortly. We are pleased to see numbers growing for the Sixth Form and if you are interested in finding out more about it, either for this coming year or further into the future, please do contact our Registrar, Mr. Moore. ( registrar@stokecollege.co.uk )

On Wednesday it is our Year 9 Parents Evening where we will be discussing your children’s academic progress this year as well as starting the conversation on their options for next year. The GCSE Options Evening will be on Wednesday 14th March and we are excited to be launching a number of new level 2 vocational courses alongside the GCSEs on that evening.

On Thursday it is World Book Day, so don’t forget to dress up as your favourite book character, and then, finally, on Saturday we will be holding our Scholarship Examinations.