St Edmund's

School News

The cast for this years production ‘Remember’ are currently away in Krakow, Poland. Check back here and on social media to follow their journey leading up to the production.

day 4 – variety is the spice of life

Our penultimate day was as varied as it was exciting.  We began the day having to sprint as fast as Usain Bolt, in time to catch the bus to our host school – why do kids always turn up late?  Having finally caught our breath we arrived at the school for a day of cooking and drama…and there was a lot of drama when cooking, I can tell you.  

The owner of the school, the wonderful Krystyna Mayak, had arranged for a top Krakovian chef to teach our kids, joined by some Polish pupils, to prepare four Polish dishes, including, of course, pierogi (stuffed dumplings – delicious) which would then be cooked for our lunch.  Different preparation stations had been set up and the kids were shown how to cut, chop, mix, knead and stir delicious, fresh ingredients and artfully assemble them together ready for the oven.  It was such terrific fun, completely chaotic, but great fun!  And as well as encouraging them to be brave and taste traditional food from a different culture, it will hopefully help teach the kids life-long cookery skills.  It was also a fab opportunity to bond more with our Polish friends.  I was so proud of how our kids went about the whole business.  The lunch when it arrived, seriously, blew us all away, it was delicious, healthy and all made by the kids.  If this doesn’t get them off the Macdonalds nothing will!  

After lunch Mr Lorentzen and I ran a few drama classes for the English and Polish pupils, which were enjoyed by all; once more our kids supported their Polish friends admirably, the Polish pupils gaining in confidence all the time.  During my first drama class it was a lovely surprise to see our very own Mr. O’Conner, pop his head round the studio door as he was being shown around the school by the Polish Head teacher, having jetted in from the UK to join us for our day at Auschwitz.  Once we left the school, sadly for the last time, our trip was to become more serious as we headed for the Oskar Schindler factory, now a superbly curated exhibition, documenting not just his heroic rescue of over 1100 Jews but Polish history before, during and after WWII.  An incredibly powerfully academic enrichment experience for us all and one the kids will never forget.  

I have said many times now just how impressive our young people have been on this trip but here they were exceptional – keen to listen and learn, respectful every step of the way.  When I arranged this trip with the help of our hosts I did not expect just how fortuitous it would be as a perfect antidote to the Oskar Schindler factory to follow it with some Jewish dancing in Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter.  Our ‘choreographer’ was a psychotherapist by day but traditional Jewish dance teacher by night, and soon had us all dancing and oi, oi, oiing with sheer delight and unadulterated joy.  Fabulous! This was followed by a delicious Polish meal in the Jewish quarter where we were joined by the senior management team from the host school.  A wonderfully varied day.

day 3 – mountains and rivers

Croissants with jam, heaps of coffee and freshly made scrambled eggs set us up for the journey that lay ahead. Through the coach window, far in the distance, we could see the jagged peaks of mountain tops quite unlike anything back at home and this was to be our destination for Day 3 of our Polish trip.

After about an hour the roads became more twisted and the landscape began to change; houses became more chalet-like and spruce trees sprang up all around us, creating an Alpine feel as we neared the Tatra mountain range that forms a natural border between Poland and Slovakia. As we neared our destination, the blue sky suddenly disappeared and we  descended into a thick mist, with visibility no more than a foot or so in front of the coach window. But just as we resigned ourselves to a day without views, as quickly as it came it disappeared, and we emerged above the mist into glorious blue sky and sunshine.

Now we knew that we were going rafting, but quite what that looked like or entailed was a mystery. Images sprang into our minds; would it be white water rafting (if so we certainly weren’t dressed for it), logs tied together with rope that we stood on like paddle boards (again, if so we weren’t dressed for it)? You can imagine our relief when we saw large raft-like boats, with seats – not only that, but we had Polish men in traditional dress to punt them along for us. Perfect. And for the next two and a half hours we were treated to beautiful mountain scenery, with Poland on one side of the River and Slovakia, literally on the other bank, some rafts meditative and reflective, bathing in the silent beauty of the scenery, some a little more rowdy, some full of laughter, as our pupils bonded with new Polish friends and each other. We finally landed for lunch in an Alpine village to feast on Chicken, potatoes and salad – and Wow! believe me when I say Polish chickens have the biggest legs ever! Good job we had the chance to walk it off as we made our way back to the coach and then home to Krakow. A nighttime stroll around the beautiful main square finished off the day perfectly and as us weary travellers began to yawn and flop we made our way back to the hotel for a good night’s rest…

DAY 2 – You can lick the walls but please don’t lick our King!

After a hearty breakfast and a good night’s sleep, it was time to board our coach and head for the Wieliczka Salt Mine, active since the Middle Ages and one of the first sites to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We descended 135 metres underground to explore walkways and ramps, magnificent chambers, lakes and breathtaking art, sculptured throughout many centuries of laborious salt mining. At the heart of it lies the Chapel of St. Kinga; with its salt Crystal chandeliers, a salt floor polished like marble, and its religious sculptures carved by just three men taking turns, it is a truly atmospheric place, full of real beauty. The smell of salt wafting through the air, the therapeutic microclimate and the sound of silence, kept us enrapt as we passed through 20 beautiful chambers, surrounded by salt in all shades of grey, black and white. Quite simply everything you can see is carved from salt!  Everything. Then, after a quick lick of the walls – and with gifts of rock salt crystals, bath salts or scrubs in our bags, we boarded the coach back into Krakow, heading for our host school.

The most memorable moment down in the mines for me was when our guide, after saying we could lick the walls as salt kills all bacteria, reprimanded our kids for licking the salt statue (obviously) of a revered Polish king (Kazimierz Wielki).  ‘Don’t lick the King!”  echoed out across the chamber.  Funny!  After the salt mines we made our way to the host school – and what a beauty it is; a new bespoke building, that exudes creativity in every classroom.  Our kids were most impressed with a salt grotto (what else) where all Polish pupils spend an hour a week for their wellness.  It is made from salt bricks, which are lit with atmospheric LED lighting and relaxing music is played through a state of the art sound system – all very spa-like.  

After a truly delicious lunch cooked by the school chef everyone was given a tour of the school and then participated in a drama workshop, with Polish pupils, led by yours truly.  I was immensely proud of our kids who shone and supported their new Polish friends admirably.  The highlight of the afternoon was to follow – a dance workshop celebrating traditional Polish folk dancing.  Just fabulous.  And very very funny! Everyone dressed up and took part…with aplomb.  One of our boys twirled past me and shouted, “ I am so outta my comfort zone, Sir, but I’m lovin’ it!”  Said it all really.  Well done kids!  

After a lovely supper, provided by our hosts, of foraged wild mushroom pasta and sweet cheese and plum pancakes, we hopped on a bus back to the main square where an hour of free time for the kids away from us oldies worked wonders – especially for us!



Everyone turned up at school at 4:30 am for the extremely early start to board the coach for Stansted Airport!  “It’s the middle of the night, Sir!”, wailed one very sleepy traveller. But this is St Edmund’s and we are made of strong stuff, so we set off with good heart, keen to begin what is sure to be a memorable experience and a wonderful adventure.

Even the chaos at the airport couldn’t dampen our spirits.  I have been through Stansted airport many times but this took the biscuit; thousands of travellers battling to get through customs, rude Ryanair staff, running, no, sprinting to make the flight, which had to be delayed because we just couldn’t get there in time (nobody on any flight to anywhere could!). Needless to say, and unsurprisingly amid the chaos, seven of us, as well as many other passengers, arrived without our luggage at the other end. Typical. Urghhhh!  But, even that couldn’t get in the way of the excitement of this trip.

We were greeted at Balice Airport in Krakow by a friendly member of staff from our host school – Prywatne Szkoly im. Noblistow Polskich w Krakowie – who escorted us to this beautiful city.  At our hotel (very nice and smack-bang in the centre of town) we were welcomed by one of the head teachers and the owner of the school and given our itinerary for the day.  So, after unpacking, well, those of us that could (where are our suitcases?!!) we set off to eat delicious wood-fired pizza (there were so many that ten large pizzas ended up in doggie bags) and then we played a city game, which had been painstakingly arranged and invented by the Head of the school.  Basically, we were split into 5 teams, each joined by two Polish pupils, and given a set of instructions, in Polish, as well as the promise of a prize; so the competition was on. We were completely reliant on the host pupils in our team translating the instructions into English, to navigate the city centre from one landmark to another where we took pictures, as proof we had been there.

The Polish pupils were warm, welcoming, and up for the challenge, especially given how reliant we were on their English translation – and what an elegant, beautiful city Krakow is, with stunning architecture and a wonderful Castle. As afternoon turned into evening and darkness fell, we were fed even more food – a mixture of Polish and Italian cuisine of a very high standard and thoroughly enjoyed by these weary travellers. A final walk through the main square of this magical city, buzzing with myriad people sat outside in cafes and restaurants, lit up like something from a magical fairytale was our last glimpse of this wonderful, welcoming place before as we made our way back to the hotel for an early night.

Mark Sell – Director of Drama