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Arranging A School Trip – The Teacher’s Story

Millennium Bridge

Rhyddings Business and Enterprise School
London 2012

Planning the trip

Our school is an 11-16 mixed school, populated by white British and Asian heritage families. We missed out on BSF with the change of Government and our school remains in its old buildings (compared to other schools in the borough), yet our performance continues to reap a fantastic “value-added” for its learners – they do so well with us, achieving more with us than maybe they would have achieved elsewhere. It’s the most child-centred school I have ever worked in and my colleagues will pull heaven and earth together to help our kids. It’s a privilege to serve with them; sometimes, our kids are challenging, but without a shadow of a doubt, their curriculum and its delivery are constantly monitored to reflect their needs and to make their learning life-long.

We decided to take our year 10s (who are 14-15) on this venture – we wanted to broaden their horizons, enrich their experience of life, relate the work we do at school to the Big World and throw in a bit of social learning as well. Many of them have been on day trips connected to subjects before and some have been on residential adventure holidays further down the school. Just before our trip ran, the Geography department ran its field trip to Amsterdam for a few days. Visits like this always fall in the time AFTER year 11 leave, because no one likes abandoning their GCSE groups in such a vital year! Nici from WST contacted me at a good time – I was weighing up how to put such a trip together when she called; I explained how things are with us financially and asked if she could put something together that our families could cope with. WST even worked with us in devising the schedule that we would pay our instalments; eventually, the sensitively staged approach meant we had no problems! If anything concerned me, I only had to call and Rachel would help me to find a solution quickly. I am so grateful that I chose a company who fully supported my vision for our kids. I really couldn’t have asked for more from them.

In some respects, I’d have loved to take the kids abroad for the adventure, but there was something significant about the year – the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics… London has never looked prettier! The World was watching! This appealed to my sense of occasion, context, history and memories – I hoped it would create a profound bond between them (and us!) and that they would have the time of their lives (and remember it forever).

How the trip went

We knew which events and places we would be seeing. The trip was launched with a presentation of the on-coming context and the place – it was on the front page of the school website for parents to see when their little darlings went home with the trip letter. We didn’t bang on about the trip after the cohort had emerged at first, but gradually, the “we’re going to London” board filled out with images, jokes and news. As the first brief in Art came to a close, the stealth campaign of work and connections began…”Fine Art”, we said.

We started out with Banksy – everyone loved him…and after looking at some of the Graffiti Street Tours on Youtube, presented the work of Stik, Connor Harrington, Jimmy C, Space Invader etc– which also went down well. We called it “Art isn’t always in a Gallery”. We told the group we’d do a range of Fine Art genres to whet their appetite for the time when we’d let them tell us what the next “journey” would be. Next came “…but sometimes it is” and presented a range of images currently in the Saatchi and Tate Britain. This was also all good for the whole-school initiative on developing “Questioning” in our all-encompassing goal of “Good to Outstanding”. The kids talked. We looked at techniques, such as Derain’s colourful “Cezanne” and Nash’s “Totes Meer”. We never told them this work might become the real McCoy a week later. We wanted them to suddenly recognise things and have “light-bulb” moments (which they did, impressing the guides on the Street Art Tour). It had the desired effect in the galleries also! These moments ranked amongst the highlights of the trip for me – connecting the dots meant that we were achieving the aims we set. The trip ran efficiently because it had been well organised by WST with liaison throughout the lead-up and they were there for us on the end of a phone-line if we needed them. It was also fantastic that our driver was such a star – he advised us and made suggestions for the smoothest running of our schedule. He liked the kids and they liked him – always important on a school trip! The kids were really happy to clean and look after their coach, because they were “helping Phil”. They even made up a song for him on the way home “Hey there Delilah” became “Hey there Phil the driver, what’s it like in London city...” etc. Sweet!

The kids sang in Planet Hollywood, too – when they saw our school and a welcome scroll across the tv screens in the restaurant, they cheered and sang along to One Direction’s “What Makes you Beautiful” and that went on to be “the song of our trip”. They loved their breakfast at the Premier Inn and probably got a little too used to the on tap Costa Coffee at the breakfast bar...

One of our group was unable to go at the last moment, so it filled me with pride when one of the girls proposed that the returned “caution money” anticipated from Wembley Premier Inn could be given to the lad’s family, in case his family lost the cost of the holiday. All the group quickly agreed, even though I said it probably wasn’t allowed! Awwww! They tidied Phil’s bus so that he wouldn’t have to do it all himself as it was so late in the day.

Back at school

They are still asking me to take them back – another trip – longer – their bond is so sound and strong. Their increased knowledge is truly enriched by what we did in our partnership with WST. Our work has been so enhanced in school by this visit. I don’t do Facebook, but my daughter showed me many pictures of their trip, the London Eye, Gallery pictures ...and they’re still on. In our new Academic Year, they are still riding on the crest of “belonging”. They’re still talking about it two months later as if was last week.

We bought them some London canvases in a Summer Sale and wrapped them up; on the last day of term, we gave them each a laminated photoshop montage of them all and their adventures. We ate cake, drank pop, watched a powerpoint of our piccies and theirs, with “their song” and our tales of what we did. They opened their pictures up and spent some time writing messages to each other on the backs of them (like our leavers do) and invited the Head to join us – he added his thanks to you and his pride in them.

As we had done some work on Street Art before we arrived, they enjoyed the trip. Some of them flagged and were tired near the end, but that didn’t spoil it. We’d issued them with water and they’d been allowed a toilet stop. What we saw was excellent, although some would have loved to see more Banksy!

This is the BEST experience of learning outside the classroom I have led in many years; it’s essential that schools and their providers work as a team; WST “get” this and was completely in tune with my objectives and the profile of my school. I may have been Trip Leader, but this venture allowed ME to feel as if it was a trip for me and my team, too.