The curriculum came to life for Year 9 and 10 pupils across the trust’s four secondary schools when two very special visitors talked about events that shaped the world we live in.
Our trust maths subject director invited Bletchley Park outreach officer Liz Mitchell, who told more than 1,000 pupils how Alan Turing and his team had saved thousands of lives by cracking the code used by Germany and its allies to direct its Second World War operations.
In an event organised by the history department, Anaïs Mutumba also visited to give her moving testimony of being a small child during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The two events illustrate the way the NPCAT secondary standards team are creating new and exciting learning opportunities for pupils across the trust, significantly enhancing their classroom learning experience.
In an event that combined maths with learning about history, Liz spent a day in each of our four secondaries, St Patrick’s Catholic College, St Peter’s Catholic College, Trinity Catholic College and Sacred Heart Catholic Secondary, bringing the actual wartime Enigma machine that was used in the film The Imitation Game.
She told pupils how the Bletchley Park code-breakers shortened the war by around two years, saving thousands or perhaps millions of lives.
“The government brought together mathematicians, linguists and people who were good at puzzles to crack the codes used by the German, Italian and Japanese forces to encrypt messages,” explained trust director for secondary mathematics Emma Brooksbank.
“Once they did this they could intercept thousands of messages without the enemy knowing. The pupils were able to look at the machine’s settings and see how it worked.
“The number of possible combinations was 103 followed by 21 zeros. It would take longer than the time since the universe has existed to check all of them for just one second! That shows just how difficult their work was.”
Small groups of pupils then had their own go at code-breaking, using the Caesar Cipher to work out the combination of a briefcase that contained Celebrations sweets.
“They were unsure what to expect, but they thoroughly enjoyed the event, especially having a go at the code-breaking,” said Emma. “They showed great enthusiasm and the battle to be first to break the code was very competitive.”
Liz added: “The pupils lived up to the high expectations of their schools and their behaviour was fantastic throughout the week.”
Anaïs Mutumba, from the Ishami Foundation, visited St Patrick’s Catholic College to give a talk that was live-streamed to the other three schools via Google Meet.
Pupils sat in silence as she told about her horrifying experiences of being a child of just five years old during the infamous events that led to the murder of more than a million people in Rwanda.
“She told us how her mother had to go to hospital under armed guard to give birth to her sibling because of the danger of violence,” said trust director of secondary history, Phill Scarr.
“Pupils from all four schools were stunned by what Anaïs had to say. “Genocide is part of their history curriculum and as well as learning about the Holocaust, they were also studying the events in Rwanda.
“They engaged fully with the presentation and asked some excellent and sensitive questions about forgiveness and life in Rwanda today. They were a credit to their schools.
“It’s so important to take pupils beyond the curriculum and have them actually see someone who’s lived through these experiences and bring them to life.
“We can talk about events in class and read books, but hearing from someone’s own experiences and how they affected them really brings the events to life.
“Anaïs spoke about how the country is healing today and how people no longer think in terms of Tusi and Hutu. She says it’s now a safe place.”
After the success of both talks, Emma and Phill are planning further events to help pupils across all four secondary schools understand their subjects in more depth.
Meanwhile, Rachel Heer, trust director of modern foreign languages, has been taking part in an international webinar, presenting a case study of how she used the state-of-the-art VR suite at St Peter’s Catholic College to engage pupils with languages.
She also took part in a panel discussion about the use of technology to support language learning and what the future of language teaching might look like.