22 September 2023 • 6 Mins Read

How German School Trips Help With GCSEs

With the initial aim of encouraging his students to pursue German beyond Year 9, Mr Pacey at Merchant Taylors' School introduced the idea of using a school trip to inspire his pupils and develop their interest in languages. To highlight how the school trip to Berlin affected his students, Mr Pacey recounts his experience of planning the trip and the continuing influence it had after their return.

How WST helped with planning and pre-departure 

The first trip took quite some planning, as it was the first time I’d undertaken anything like it. WST did what they could by getting my head around the school’s requirements, including what I would need to do before and after arrival in Berlin, which were the more difficult components.

This, combined with negotiating the systems of a new school, made for a somewhat stressful lead-up in the weeks before departure. However, the trip was a major success, with 20 boys going in the first year, and then 22 in the following. I do believe that once the trip has a bit of a reputation, like it does now, it’s easier to attract participants.

I’m still confident of being able to gain around 20 boys each year. This year’s trip was far, far more straightforward, having basically ‘been there, done that’ last year. I basically call my WST Tour Consultant, Helen Hamer, tell her the number of students, and the ball starts rolling.

The boys leave for Berlin with a basic knowledge of the city, this having been covered in lessons. As not all boys on the course will go to Berlin, we don’t have the chance to cover it extensively. However, I’m keen to start running a crash-course in appropriate language skills before next year’s trip.

Our arrival and choosing the perfect accommodation

There have been no real problems worth mentioning on either trip: the coach company used previously was a little ‘un-Germanic’ with regard to timekeeping, but the company used this year, Prima Klima Reisen, was great.

As we arrived at our accommodation, the manager of the Transit Loft remembered us (or at least pretended well to!) and welcomed us back again this year. I love knowing this accommodation well and its location is great. We all enjoy being close to Alexanderplatz. The day we used the coach and visited Sachsenhausen, followed by the Olympiastadion, was enjoyed by the boys.

Using the WST model when planning a school trip 

This trip works for us because I know Berlin very well: I can organise outings outside of what is organised by WST because I know what the boys will enjoy doing. With this in mind, the WST model is perfect for me.

In addition to the organised tours this year, we visited the Berlin Wall memorial, East Side Gallery, the TV tower on Alexanderplatz, the Reichstag, Berlin Cathedral, the Sony Centre and the Holocaust Memorial museum.

The learning benefits of the school trip 

The trip is great for our boys because they get to know a European capital city in some detail, learn how the transport system works and get the experience of being abroad and operating in German.

Clearly, it’s wonderful when the boys see something of Berlin in class and can remember being there themselves.

We have boys keep vocabulary lists of new words whilst we’re there, and this is great for helping them to assimilate new language. I do believe that this trip has helped us to increase the uptake of German to GCSE.

WST support and the value of having a dedicated tour operator 

We chose WST because of Helen Hamer, who answers e-mails usually within 30 minutes. I’m always able to get her on the phone, and she knows me and what I want on the trip. However, we also chose WST because it represents excellent value for money (even when flying BA). My colleague teaching French is now also using WST for her trip.

The lasting effect of the school trip

We have, since running this trip, seen more than a 100% increase in boys wanting to take German to GCSE, and I am certain the trip, along with other measures, has helped us to exceed our expectations in this goal.

If you’d like to find out how WST can help you organise a tailored school trip for your students, get in touch with one of our specialist team today who will be happy to help.