The Ellesmere Port CE College, a school that has recently been praised by Ofsted for its international work and exchange trip to Hong Kong, are just two days away from departing to visit partner schools. Phoebe Wright, Assistant Principal at The Ellesmere Port CE College, describes the process of planning for the trip and the excitement among students.

This time last year, I was hurriedly completing the application for Turing Funding. This year, I am hurriedly packing my suitcase for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hong Kong. In only two days I, along with 30 children and 5 staff, will be on my way to Hong Kong for a 9-day fully-funded trip. It is hard to believe the trip is finally here but fantastic to see our hard work come to fruition.

When I first learned about the opportunities afforded by the Turing Institute, I knew that this was something we absolutely had to apply for. The Ellesmere Port Church of England College is part of the Frank Field Education Trust, whose motto is ‘aspire not to have more but to be more’. We believe in ‘social justice through excellence in education’. This trip embodies all that we as a college and trust believe in: allowing pupils, regardless of their backgrounds, the opportunities to experience a richness of life and develop cultural capital.

Since being awarded the funding in August, we have worked to raise the profile of the trip and the value of international travel in terms developing social and cultural capital. I first introduced the trip in October last year. I went into assemblies for each year group and told them about the amazing opportunity available to them and how to apply for this.

Pupils were asked to write letters of application stating why they wanted to go on the trip, what they would bring to it and what they felt they would gain from it. We had applications from almost 30% of the college – an incredible feat! The task of selecting pupils then began and we had to make the incredibly difficult decision of which 30 pupils we would take. Whilst informing unsuccessful applicants was difficult, it was a pleasure to notify successful pupils and their reactions will stay with me forever!

I have been endlessly impressed by the courage and resilience of the pupils who applied for, and accepted their place. Many students have not travelled abroad before and very few have been beyond Europe. I have also developed a new level of respect for our parents who are trusting us to take their children halfway across the world.  As someone who has been fortunate enough to travel internally on a number of occasions, it has been humbling to remind me of all of the daunting, challenging and frustrating elements, something which has been vital to prepare our students for.

We have had weekly ‘Hong Kong Club’ visits where we’ve researched places on our itinerary, prepared pupils for the long-haul flight, shared questions and concerns and begun to understand more about the history and culture of Hong Kong. Unlike most trips, we are taking pupils from 5 year groups and two schools. Most pupils are not travelling with their already-established friendship groups and therefore it was imperative that we spent time together before travelling so that we feel happy and comfortable during the significant time we will spend together.  It has been lovely watching new friendships grow, and seeing the family-like dynamics develop between our older and younger pupils.

Whilst on our trip, we will be visiting three partner schools in Hong Kong. We have spent time researching these schools, learning language to show our new friends and sending emails to begin to build relationships.

Whilst the planning of the trip has undoubtedly been stressful, I firmly believe that seeing our students explore, try new things and make new friends on the other side of the world will be a memory I will never forget. Our support from Global School Alliance has been invaluable and I feel so much more relaxed knowing that there is a team of people waiting for our arrival in Hong Kong and that all logistics are taken care of.

Our support from Global School Alliance has been invaluable and I feel so much more relaxed knowing that there is a team of people waiting for our arrival in Hong Kong and that all logistics are taken care of.

Our trip has transformed pupils’ experiences of college and I am already being asked about next year’s trip! As a trust, we have an ambitious  ’25 by 25’ vision in which we set out to establish links with 25 schools across the globe by 2025. The Global School Alliance will be invaluable in supporting us to make these links. Our Turing bid for 2023-2024 has already been submitted and we anxiously await the decision.

For now, Sunday’s trip is enough to plan for! Wish us luck!