Thursday 2nd April 2009 by C. Freeman
Students got a taste of French working life during a recent trip to Brittany. The eight students all undertook work placements at schools, bars and shops during the week-long trip to Pontivy. They stayed in a converted windmill; Moulin de Kergoual, where they had further study sessions in the evening in a purpose-built classroom.
The accommodation is run by Helene and Alan Line, who gave expert advice on the local area, provided home cooked food and posed daily questions on French culture and topics for the students to discuss with their employers and colleagues.
Six of the Year 12 students; Lauren Butler, Scott Balchin, Felicity Macro, Eloise Cooper, Samantha Sloan and Emma Davies, had placements as classroom assistants in the local primary schools while Katie Arch-Jones worked in a clothes shop and Jessica Irwin served customers in a café. As primary schools close on Wednesdays those with a school placement had a sight-seeing trip to the medieval city of Vannes.
Samantha worked in a school with 80 students. She said: 'I couldn't understand what they were saying at playtime the first day, it was absolute mayhem.; they were running around asking me if I wanted to play hide and seek! They would send small groups of children to me so I could talk to them and try to understand what they were saying. All the kids were crying the day I left. It was an invaluable experience. I'd recommend it to anyone, despite how daunting it initially seems.'
Lauren also worked with primary children. She said: 'I used to dance with them every morning because they were preparing for this festival that they have in Brittany. In the afternoons I was with the older children. On Tuesday afternoon I went to one of the secondary schools with some of the older children because they go and see what it is like; so I was helping in an English class at the secondary school.'
Jessica said: 'I've never actually worked behind a bar before so I had to learn how to pour the beer and use the coffee machine. It taught me a lot of new vocabulary and helped me to think quickly in French. It helped my confidence because you are forced into speaking, you end up thinking you might as well go for it otherwise you will end up being quiet for the whole week.'
Teacher Mrs Venter said: 'The students approached the trip with a very positive attitude and they were courteous both to their colleagues and our hosts. Their employers were very satisfied with the students' efforts to blend into and learn from the French working environment. Our evening study sessions reinforced what they had learned during the day and the whole trip meant the students are now much more confident when conversing in French, which will stand them in good stead for their A Level exams.'