It has been another exciting break for the pupils this summer, with three inspiring trips to different corners of the world.

The first to depart from the Dean Close gates was a group of linguists to Montpellier. Only 10km from the south coast of France, Montpellier is bursting with vibrancy, culture, history and boasts a stunning city centre and main square. The French study tour group had language lessons every morning in the LSF language summer school, and stayed with French host families to help further develop their language skills.

In the afternoons the group explored the Nimes Roman amphitheatre and aqueduct, Le Pont du Gard, the Camargue area and the beautiful old port of Aigues Mortes. Pupils also enjoyed the seaside at La Grande Motte, Le Petit Travers and, as is customary for the last day, an evening of bowling. Director of Modern Languages, Chris Hooper, said, “I have no doubt that the pupils benefitted greatly from their lessons and home stays and their understanding came on in leaps and bounds. We are looking forward already to Montpellier 2019!”.

As one group returned, the Community Action team set off on the eighth visit to our link school, Nyakatukura Memorial Secondary School in Ibanda, Western Uganda. The hospitality was outstanding as always, with evening meals and lunches consisting of matoke (bananas), rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes, beans, peas, cabbage, millet, ground nut sauce, chicken sauce, beef and several fruits (pineapple, water melon and mango). They were even treated to avocado pears and pawpaw.

Sunday morningbegan with the sound of Nyakatukura students singing worship songs and after breakfast there was a church service, at which Dean Close was welcomed and introduced. Later there was a talent show with traditional dance and song, and African instruments. Throughout the week pupils immersed themselves by supporting and teaching lessons and interacting with both the children and staff.

They visited three primary schools linked with Nyakatukura and entertained over 2000 Ugandan pupils with music, colouring and games. The group also made a very moving visit to the Ibanda Babies’ Orphanage, run by some wonderful Catholic nuns. As the week at Nyakatukura drew to a close, it was suggested that they paint a mural, so artists set to work on the same wall as the mural painted by the 2015 team. Each person made a handprint with their name and the tree mural can be added to by future trip members.

To end an eye-opening and inspiring week, the group headed to Queen Elizabeth National Park and Mweya Safari Lodge for a land safari drive. The scenery was stunning with endless savannah country and they saw lions, Ugandan cobs, water bucks and warthogs. However, the second early morning drive was the real finale. Not far from the Lodge one of the pupils spotted a leopard lying in a ditch close to the road. Then later the team saw elephants and buffaloes, and then drove off road right up to a male lion, which had made a kill. Then came the afternoon river cruise in the Kazinga Channel, which connects two lakes on the Ugandan border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here there were pods of hippos, water buffalo, elephants, crocodiles and warthogs, plus literally hundreds of birds: kingfishers, egrets, herons and fish eagles and many more! Another incredible visit to Africa.

Later in the holidays, just as everyone was getting ready to return to School, the Drama Department returned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, triumphant yet again after its thirteenth sell-out season, with Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. All of the tickets for the Close Up Theatre Company performances were sold out ten days before the Dean Close actors arrived.

This production was originally performed last March in the School’s Bacon Theatre. Those who saw it then will remember the stunning performances backed by a magnificent set – a huge country house drawing room-hall, complete with staircase, alcoves, doors which blew open and galleries. However, those who know the Edinburgh Fringe Festival will know that there is neither the time nor the space for such a luxurious set. The actors were restricted to only a handful of props; a table, some chairs and of course, the necessary murder weapons. This intimate, stripped back version of the performance only added to the suspense, as our finest actors were slowly picked off one by one in a variety of gruesome ways.

Director of Drama, Lloyd Allington, said, “This was perhaps the most stressful Edinburgh Festival that I have ever been to, dealing with 10 murders a day! That aside, the actors performed magnificently as always to a full house. It was also a delight to take Sixth Former Gabriella Sills’ original play, Beautiful Little Fool, which was received incredibly well by the Fringe audiences”.