Having had three children, I’m no stranger to school open days. City life meant they had access to any number of High Schools, so between the three of them, over the years I’ve been to Open Days at: Abbey Grange; City of Leeds; Granby; Harrogate Grammar; Intake; Lawnswood; Pudsey Grangefield; Pudsey Priesthorpe; Rossett; St. Aidan’s, and probably a few others as well. You’d think that would be enough. But no.
Today we had the chance to see the Lycée des Métiers J-M Jacquard in Lavelanet at work when it threw open its doors. We couldn’t resist.
It was like none of the above. I’ve not been to a school before where pupils trundled round a huge loading bay in forklift trucks, moving pallets of goods into a ‘shop’ area where they practiced using computerized stock control. They’re the Logistics students. In another department, white-coated teenagers in white rubber shoes conducted experiments into water purity, or calculated how much salt a particular water source would need to optimize dishwasher use. They’re destined for the Water Processing & Treatment Industry when they leave school. In an enormous modern factory type space, several boys and one lone girl were applying their new skills to the Maintenance of Industrial Equipment.
Somehow, I don’t think any of my three would have wanted to be there – though they might have enjoyed driving the forklift trucks.
Of course, all the usual core lessons go on too – though no music, art or drama, and Mal and I had fun in an English class (none of those students wanted to be there, either). Their teacher was showing them pictures of the sights of London, and she encouraged us to help her prise English words and phrases from their reluctant lips.
By English standards, it’s a small school – maybe some 500 students (and all aged over 14). You might guess that there are about twice as many boys as girls. About 100 are weekly boarders, coming from as far away as Albi, almost 200 km. away. We inspected small dormitories and games rooms, which seemed curiously impersonal spaces for teenagers who spend their evenings there. In fact the whole school was a bit like that. It was impressive – wonderfully equipped with every technological gizmo; polite, helpful and enthusiastic staff and students; views of the Pyrénées . The focus in this Lycée is preparing for the world of work, and there’s no room for the displays of pupils’ work, the pictures on the wall, the school Annual Production, that are typical of an English High School.
But it’s clearly a happy and successful school, and we’re glad to have had the chance of a glimpse through its open doors.