Tomas Valdivia Araya

Tomas Valdivia Araya, who served as Head Boy during the 2018-2019 school year

A warm reception for a student from Chile in 2017 was enough to convince him to stay on at Barney, as a term-long study placement turned into a two-year secondment in the North.

In fact, Tomas Valdivia Araya immersed himself so deeply in life at Barney he secured the prestigious position of head boy.

While his initial aims were to develop his language and rugby skills, Tomas soon threw himself into a range of activities, including choir and drama, as well as his coursework of maths, sports studies, Spanish and economics.

“I live in a million population city in one of the longest countries in the world,” he said. “When I looked at the map, Barnard Castle seemed to be so close to Newcastle that I thought it was going to be a suburb!

“Then when I got here it was in the middle of the countryside and there were more cows than people. But the welcome I received was so warm I decided to make it my home from home.”

Tomas added: “I should have gone back home the first Christmas but decided to stay to take my A Levels and when I was chosen to be head boy it was such an honour.

“Barney has been amazing and is a real community which actually lives by its school values and ethos.”