NCS is a once-in-a lifetime experience open to all 15 - 17 year olds across England and Northern Ireland that helps fast track your teen’s future.

It is a unique two or three-week full-time programme focused around fun and discovery, plus 30 hours committed to a social action project that benefits both young people and society. On this programme, participants build skills for work and life, while taking on new challenges and adventures, making new friends, learning new skills and contributing to their community.

NCS takes place out of school time during the autumn, spring and summer terms and represents great value for money for parents as participants spend time away from home with all meals and activities covered. Government backing means the most you will ever pay for NCS is £50 for the whole experience, including food, activities... everything. Your teen will learn how to be self-sufficient, developing new life skills such as first aid, managing a budget and cooking for themselves and their new friends.

Each year the NCS team come to school in the Autumn term to recruit Year 12 students for their Autumn Half term programme and in the Spring term to recruit for their Summer Programme. For more information please visit the NCS website: 

The highly successful German exchange runs annually with our partner school, the Steinhagener Gynmasium, near Bielfeld. (

Around 20 year QEHS students host their German guests in early March, with the return leg of the exchange taking place in July, ordinarily in the final week of the German school term.

German Exchange trip to Edinburgh Castle March 2015

This exchange is aimed at years 10 & 12 though younger students are not excluded from participating.

It is hoped that students will engage as fully as possible in the target-language, whilst enhancing their knowledge of German culture.

The social advantages of being able to forge relationships with like-minded language enthusiasts are not to be underestimated.

Students often maintain contact with their partners, organising their own private visits to Germany thereafter, reflecting the personal benefits such an experience can offer.

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The Journey

This year we flew to Germany on Saturday 16th July, and returned on Wednesday 20th in time for the last day of the school year!

newcastle to bielefeld medium

The flight lasted just under two hours, flying from Newcastle to Hannover, followed by a 1 hour bus journey from Hannover to Bielefeld, the nearest city to Steinhagen.

Our Stay

We stayed in Steinhagen for 4 nights and 5 days with our host families, who had already been to Hexham in March.

The activities undertaken whilst in Germany usually mirror those that are arranged for the German students when they visit Hexham and include a day in school as well as cultural excursions. This year we were fortunate enough to have whole day in Berlin, including a tour of the key landmarks and a meeting a member of the German parliament.

It is also common for the German students to organise activities and entertainment for the whole group in the evenings and in the past these have included swimming, barbeques, going to the cinema and bowling.

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“It’s an excellent opportunity to broaden your horizons and a great chance to use the German you have learnt in school.”

“We were worried about not being able to speak German, but in fact the standard of our guest’s English was excellent and she was so polite!”

“The German exchange was a fantastic chance for me as a parent to gain an insight into a different culture. We were impressed how much of an influence this whole experience has had on Jack!”

“Our German guest tried really hard to get involved in all of our conversations at home. We tried to give her a taste of English culture. Fish and chips weren’t too popular but the shopping went down well!!”

  • Meal times- Lunch- around 3-4pm, after school. Tea- around 10pm. Family should supply a morning snack to accommodate for different meal times, bring money in case they forget, the canteen is cheap.
  • Cost of entertaining them whilst in Hexham, if the weather is bad try to make back-up plans if it rains. For example, bowling is only £1 a game on a Tuesday at the Wentworth, you could organise gatherings at people's houses or on the Sele if the weathers nice. When they came over here we organised trips to the metro centre and Newcastle, spent time at Tyne Green and some people went to the cinema.
  • Your exchange partner might have a different personality to you. You don’t need to spend 24/7 with them, let them do their own things such as watching English television, going on the internet and reading magazines.
  • Long days, school starts at 8:30, and finishes at 2pm and usually they go to bed late. Don't be afraid to say you want to go to sleep, they should understand how tiring the days are.
  • Be prepared for the rest of the family not to understand any English. If they speak English to you, try to reply in Spanish because that's the point of the exchange. When you first start emailing your partner, talk in Spanish to get more practice.
  • Be prepared for the weather to be bad in February, very cold/snow/rain. Make sure to pack warm clothes/umbrellas/rain coat/suitable footwear.
  • Be prepared to try a variety of food because they eat a lot of different foods compared to here.
  • It's polite to take a gift for your exchange/their family, for example, box of chocolates, typical English food (shortbread), flowers or something personal to your exchange. A good place to go is the tourist information centre in Hexham, they have a nice selection.

By Jess Robson and Jade Hanning

What's it like?

  • Students are matched according to interests, and often in friendship groups, and a lot of effort is put into making sure the matches are always successful. The German Students are friendly and easy going – forget any worries about your partner not talking to you or not liking you!
  • In most cases you’ll have already spoken to your exchange partner via Email or Facebook, and although it’s natural to be nervous when they first arrive, it’s not awkward at all and you won’t want them to leave by the end of the trip!
  • It’s a good idea to think of some things to do on the evenings with your guest. The following have proved great in the past:
    • Swimming
    • Chilling at the Sele; Football etc.
    • Bowling at the Wentworth
    • Going to Café Nero
    • Bike rides
    • Tyne Green
    • Shopping at the Metrocentre or in Newcastle
    • Going to Restaurants etc.
  • The students also enjoy English TV, Xbox etc and are happy to spend time on the computer or reading – they do not need 24/7 entertainment!
  • German students are taught English from a young age and so their standard of English is high, but it’s always nice to drop in as much as you can manage: it’s polite, fun and you’ll improve your German!
  • It’s likely that your partner will spend a day with you in school, in your lessons. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds – you’ll have already got to know your partner and it’s great introducing the Germans to our school.
  • The exchange is an opportunity to make some lifelong friends – many students end up meeting their partners after the exchange.

Töm Johnson

Exchange Madrid - England Mid February

Time Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
8h30   Meet in foyer Meet in foyer Meet in foyer Meet in foyer Meet in foyer 
9h20 Meet at Newcastle Airport at 7.15
BA 1325 To Heathrow
British students go to lessons with their Spanish partner
9h Leaving school by coach to visit the town of Segovia.
(English and Spanish students)
9.45 h Prado Museum ( guided tour of Goya, Velázquez and Greco painters) 9.30 h Visit to the Geological museum (guided tour) 9.00 h Visit to the historic part of town (Plaza Mayor, market of San Miguel, Cathedral, Theatre Royal, Gardens) Meet at the airport at 7.45
(Taken by Spanish families)
11h30 Heathrow –Madrid 13.10
BA 464
Arrival to Barajas Airport, Madrid 16.35
Day with the family 11,00h
Visit to the Real Madrid museum
Visit of the Cathedral, Museum and Palace. 12.00h Visit to the Royal Palace 11.30 School concert Morning break at traditional café (Cafetería de San Ginés) to have chocolate con churros Depart Madrid 9.50 IB 3174
Depart Heathrown 12.45 BA 1332
17h Evening with the family  Afternoon with the family Visit of Segovia, Aqueduct and Jewish quarter
17 h back to Madrid
Afternoon with the family Afternoon with the family Afternoon with the family 
20h Dinner with the family Dinner with the family Dinner with the family Dinner with the family Dinner with the family Dinner with the family Dinner with the family Dinner with the family