Go Dutch for a broader experience

1st February 2008 at 00:00
Country schools can give their pupils a glimpse of urban life, even at primary age. John Rowe tells you how to get the best from school trips.

Giving all pupils a taste of city life is a priority at our small rural primary school in south Shropshire. Taking an annual residential trip to Liverpool was always good, but this year we decided to spread our wings.

The link between one of our governors and the British School of Amsterdam came in handy, and we decided to take Year 5 and 6 children on a week-long visit.

They spent the mornings at the British School, mixed in with regular classes, to give them a look at the Dutch way of doing things.

It's a school with more than 50 different nationalities, so in terms of exposing our children to some multiculturalism, it was perfect. We stayed in the school at night, sleeping in the classrooms on camp beds. It was great fun, and, of course, it helped to keep the cost down.

In the afternoons, we went out sightseeing and exploring the cultural treats on offer.

We got around by foot, by bike, by tram and by boat. The public transport system was incredibly efficient, and it was a joy to be able to cycle to places. Our school is on top of a great big hill, and cycling anywhere is a hard slog.

Highlights included the Nemo science museum, which was full of interactive exhibitions. The building was stunning, set out over the water, with great views of the city. We also went to Zaanse Schans, an open air museum where we saw craftsmen making traditional Dutch goods, such as clogs and cheese.

The children also enjoyed a visit to Anne Frank's house, which is now a museum. Seeing Anne Frank's original diary and the room where she hid during the war is a moving experience.

We didn't have a single case of homesickness. It's not like the old days when children made a phone call home, and they would look very sad when they had to say goodbye. Nowadays, they can keep in contact through blogs, photo-sharing and podcasts.

Parents found it reassuring, and those who didn't have internet access came into the school office each morning to see the latest photos and post comments. It made everyone feel part of the experience.

John Rowe is headteacher at Hope Church of England Primary in Shropshire. He was talking to Steven Hastings.

Teacher Tips

Plan well ahead. I went to Amsterdam for a weekend beforehand, to visit the British School and the places we'd be going to. It meant the risk assessments were all in place.

Parents will be concerned about children of that age being away from home for a week. Arrange a meeting where they can express any worries. If you know what the concerns are, then you can address them.

If you're taking young children abroad, try to teach them a few basic words in the language. And give them a card that states, in the native language, who they are and where they are staying. That way, if the worst happens, and someone gets lost, they can show the card and get help.

Use technology to keep in touch. But don't spend money on expensive blogging software.

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