When pupils in Year 9 at Ferndale Community School were given a questionnaire to complete about their career aspirations, little did they know it was a way of ascertaining who would be most suited for a Taith-funded mobility to Singapore.
Michelle Coburn-Hughes, Business and Facilities Manager at Ferndale Community School in Rhondda Cynon Taff who organised the trip alongside International Links Global, said: “This was a STEM-based project with a specific focus on engineering and aquaculture , so we used the questionnaire as way of matching up the pupils who had a relevant interest or career aspiration in this field. We also considered other factors including attendance and behaviour. We didn’t tell the pupils about the mobility or say anything about Singapore; we wanted to make it as fair as possible.
“We had funding for a cohort of 15 pupils. Out of the 15, 4 had never been on an aeroplane before; one had never spent a night away from home or stayed in a hotel.
“We cannot put a value on what these pupils got from this trip, particularly in the community that we serve. To offer opportunities like this to some of these children is something they would never be able to access without this funding.
“Some of the parents were a little apprehensive but very excited for them. I was able to carry out a preparatory visit along with other teachers as part of the funding, which allowed us to plan the trip thoroughly and organise everything we needed to for the children.”
“A lot of children don’t leave the area and it is so important for them to see that there is a world beyond the Rhondda Valleys.”
The pupils were amazed when they visited a primary and secondary school in the city at the number of different cultures attending; 36 in the secondary school and 48 in the primary school.
Year 9 pupil Holly said: “The school was very different to our school. It was very organised and had an escalator. Going on this trip is the best thing I have ever done in my life.”
Year 9 pupil Cole, who has aspirations to be an engineer and construction worker, said: “It was amazing, I’d never been abroad before. I was excited and a bit scared to get on a plane. We weren’t told anything about the trip when we were doing the survey, and when they told us we didn’t really know where we were going.
“We saw the massive suspension bridges and I tried eating spicy chillies. I now want to explore more countries and cultures.”
In addition to the STEM-related learning aspects of the mobility, enrichment and confidence-building were a major theme of this project for pupils who have rarely experienced anything outside of their own community before. They learned about issues including pollution, climate change and overfishing.
Fellow year 9 pupil Harvey got far more out of the trip than he ever expected with a lot of encouragement and support from his peers. “I couldn’t swim going out but could by the time I came home,” he said.
Teacher Chris Partin explained: “We gave the pupils an opportunity to go outside of their comfort zone. It has given them the confidence to get out of their bubble that they live in and given them the ability to ask somebody for help. They don’t have these sorts of experiences.”