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Hillcroft pupils have stars in their eyes after space link-up

School children are usually told to stop watching television and concentrate on their learning, but the opposite was the order of the day recently for pupils at Hillcroft when science teacher Tom Holloway took part in a once-in-a-lifetime link-up with the International Space Station.

Mr Holloway was one of just two British teachers given the chance to put a question to British astronaut Tim Peake in a question and answer session hosted at the University of York’s National STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Learning Centre.

With his pupils in Surrey watching on television, Mr Holloway got to ask his quirky question to Major Peake – and drew an even more surprising reply. “My question was, 'which skills or experiences have unexpectedly proven most useful to you in space’, and of all the things in the world, he said it was assembling Ikea flat pack furniture!”, revealed Mr Holloway.

“He said putting together wardrobes had given him good practice at using tools and equipment and following instructions, and that was key to life in the space station environment.”

With so many demands on Major Peake’s time, the conversation was limited to just exchanging names, saying what school he was from and asking the question – but it meant that an excited crowd of pupils back in Caterham, as well as Mr Holloway’s friends and family, got to hear the name of Hillcroft being mentioned in outer space, a rare privilege for the institution which is a member of the GLF Schools group.

“It was a totally amazing experience - although rather nerve-wracking,” Mr Holloway explained. “But it was real thrill to be able to talk to him directly as he’s orbiting the Earth at 27,000 kmh, and also to help put our school’s name into space. Major Peake’s stay on the International Space Station is something that has really captured the imagination of school children everywhere, so it was a huge honour to be able to make it so personal for all our pupils at Hillcroft. People talk about remembering where they were when the moon landings took place – I hope that, for our children, this will be a similarly memorable experience.”