Messing about in boats

27th July 2007 at 01:00
In my early days as an assistant principal teacher of history at Lourdes Secondary in Glasgow, we had a history club and used to take pupils on excursions, says the former director of education at North Lanarkshire.

We went to Paris, Athens, London, and up to Loch Ness in search of the monster but, in the Easter holidays of the school year 1976-77, we hired two longboat barges for a trip along the Birmingham Ship Canal and down the River Severn.

There were six S3 pupils and two teachers on each of the two barges. We had to sleep and cook onboard and also drove them. The boys helped push off from the side. Discipline was not a problem we said that anyone who misbehaved would have to clean the chemical toilet. In a force 10 gale there's a lot of blow back.

The barges were quite hard to manage, and then we encountered bad weather on the way back up the river. The old engine couldn't cope with the wind and we were running against the tide and broke our moorings. They had to send another barge out to collect us.

It made a difference to relationships between pupils and staff over the next three years, the pupils went on to become prefects. The staff didn't know each other well at the start we were all young staff in different departments but it created strong friendships. It epitomises why school trips are so important.

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