My best worst school trip

1st August 2008 at 01:00

Best: I had entered my school into a competition to win one of a few coveted places to see JK Rowling presenting Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Only 50 school places were available. A week before the event, I was offered a place because another school had dropped out. I chatted to the caller and told her what excitement this would cause and asked how we had been chosen. She said her boyfriend lived in our school area, so we got lucky.

Suddenly finding myself extremely popular, I selected the pupils who would attend. They asked me whether they could get their books signed, but I explained that they would not get close to her as our seats were somewhere up in the gods.

The day was gloriously sunny and we enjoyed a picnic in Hyde Park before going across to the event. We queued dutifully at the gate allocated to us when great excitement broke out as JK arrived in her car and was escorted to our entrance.

The girls, having obviously ignored my advice, whipped out their books and, with great determination, pushed and crawled through the crowd to present her with their copies. Many got signatures and she spoke to a few of them.

Several autographs later, an over-excited group was ushered into the hall for the event, which was fabulous. But the highlight for them was the unexpected meeting with their heroine.

Worst: A week-long water sports trip to Spain sounded heavenly, but the reality was somewhat different. A warm coach with a group of loud, excited girls and an increasingly well-used toilet was not idyllic. One pupil was sick down her cardigan and hid the offending item in her suitcase, for it to be discovered later by her room-mates.

Settling into our chalet-type accommodation, we were informed that an outdoor disco took place every night and we promised the pupils this as a treat on their last night. But at 9pm, music filled the camp and it became clear that even without visiting the disco, we were going to experience it every night.

The next day we set off for the first of our daily activities on the beach in the blazing hot sunshine.

It was a half-hour trek down the mountain to get to the beach. On arrival, we were told that the water sports had been cancelled as the sea was too rough. Getting the pupils back up the mountain took far longer than the descent and one colleague was heroic in coaxing an overweight child to reach the top.

The highlight for me was leading a small group of girls to the beach, taking a wrong turn and ending up in a secluded nudist area. Oh, the screaming that ensued. An outbreak of head lice, triggering nightly hair inspections, rounded off an eventful trip.

Lesley Cheetham is library resource centre manager at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington, London.

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