George Seccombe Geography TeacherSee all
Head of Russian, Calday Grange Grammar School
Calday Grange travelled to Moscow and St Petersburg for 8 days with us in February 2011 with a group of 41 travellers. They recently returned from a succesful St Petersburg-only trip and are currently planning their twin city again Russia trip for 2013.
TCBC: Hello Katya, can you tell us a little bit about your teaching experience and your department?
Katya Hughes: I’ve been at Calday Grange for 10 years now and Head of the Russian Department for 5 years. We have roughly 150 boys, aged 11-18, doing Russian, so fairly large on a national scale.
TCBC: What experience of school trips did you have prior to travelling with us?
KH: We went to Russia many times and I was organising everything myself to be honest because it is an expensive trip. The guys here can’t afford a lot of money to go on a trip so I was trying to keep the costs down.
TCBC: How did you find out about us?
KH: We travelled on the same plane with a girl’s school who were travelling with you and we started chatting to the teachers who recommended you. When I got home I checked you out online and got in touch.
TCBC: And how did you find our services?
KH: Well, to be honest I was extremely extremely impressed. You know, being Russian and coming from St Petersburg and knowing the ins and outs as I do, I thought that I knew things well and I could do everything myself. Frankly speaking it is fairly difficult to meet my requirements in lots of aspects of service or anything so it was a very very pleasant experience to work with TCBC and I would highly rate the expert services you provide.
TCBC: What did your students enjoy most from their last trip with us (Feb, 2011)?
KH: The kids really valued the night train experience. I think it’s unique, it’s different, and yes there was a special kick about it. They were very impressed with Moscow, and we saw a lot, the grandeur was impressive, but at the same time they really liked St Petersburg for the quaintness and because my guys are from smaller towns or cities, they said they preferred St Petersburg because it was closer to home in size and easier to get around. But they really enjoyed the train trip.
TCBC: How does your Russia trip fit in with what you teach?
KH: It depends on the group. For example last year I had quite a lot of people who were heavily involved in theatre so visiting Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow was very educational for them because they saw the graves of people like Stanislavsky and Chekhov. It was very very important for them. I tend to place a heavy emphasis on the history but the main priority of our trip, being a Russian department, is of course the Russian language. Every year I do things like give them a map in St Petersburg and we get off Nevsky Prospect and they have to find their way to the Hermitage by asking people and talking to them in Russian. It’s a real live situation. We supervise the kids but they’re actually going to communicate with locals and trying to work things out for themselves. This is a very valuable experience.
TCBC: Your students produced a fantastic booklet about the Siege of Leningrad. What inspired you to undertake this project and how did it become a reality?
KH: When I teach I have book projects. Each term, alongside the language, they do a little research into something additional. I heard about a grant* that was given to us by the British Council and I thought this could be a very interesting opportunity. Being from St Petersburg, I am very passionate about the Siege of Leningrad. Each time I spoke of it in the classroom, the kids didn’t seem to know too much about it, so I thought that it would be a great idea to research this topic in more detail and along with our link school in St Petersburg we could try to do something as a joint project. We managed to meet people in Russia, the survivors, and to be honest it all came into place at once all of a sudden. It took our students half a year of work and research and then we exchanged materials, so probably from start to end product, when we gathered the copies and brought it to the Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad, it took us a total of 2 years. The whole Russian department was involved, so 150 students. Then we worked with the Art department, the English department and the History department so it became a big school project. Easily 350 students were involved in total from our side and a similar number of Russian students because in the end we had about 8 schools who all wanted to be involved with the project.
You can download a pdf version of Calday Grange's Siege of Leningrad booklet here
*The grant is the Joint Curriculum Project Grant given to a UK school to develop a collaborative project with an overseas partner.
TCBC: Organising a trip to Russia can be a bureaucratic hassle. Were you happy with the support you received from us?
KH: The biggest relief, the greatest joy for me, was that the visa applications were very well handled and we had great support. For me this was very very important. I also really enjoyed how everything was presented - all your materials, all the documents were very clear, straightforward and very detailed. The guides that we used were very thorough and very professional even though I was there and am a native speaker. I remember sometimes saying to the guides that they can go home, but they would stay with us to the end of our day. Very very nice. The guides were also friendly, informative, supportive and punctual. The buses were fantastic, very comfortable, reliable, the drivers exceptionally professional again. In the past I have had drivers who can drive but who don’t necessarily know the cities very well, so it was difficult to explain where I wanted to go. With you, the drivers knew the cities perfectly and this was a big relief from the pressure that I normally go through. So on every account to be honest I was very very pleased and satisfied with TCBC.
TCBC: You have already recommended our services on several occasions but could you just explain briefly why?
KH: I would strongly recommend to use your services because it’s a really caring atmosphere to us as a client and the support that we get is absolutely fantastic.
TCBC: Do you have one piece of advice for fellow teachers who may be thinking of planning a trip to Russia?
KH: Russia might be an expensive trip and I know that some schools struggle to get the numbers. I opened our trip up to Art, History and Russian students because you can cater for and cover so much by being there whichever destination you choose. I would recommend the trip not only for historians or russianists. I would suggest that if possible you offer the trip to as many departments as possible because it will be easier to get a larger group and therefore make the trip cheaper - beneficial from all directions!
Finally I would just say that I’m sure like any other teacher there are increasing pressures each year from the school in relation to school trips and it’s really worth having a company like yours that is small enough to care strongly about their clients and who do their business well. It’s like having your own personal tour operator and guide :)
TCBC: Thank you Katya!