One beach, 14 coaches, 1,100 primary pupils and parents, and ice creams all round: the ultimate school trip

16th July 2010 at 01:00
Margate mobbed as seaside first-timers given educational experience of a lifetime

It was such a simple idea: a day trip to the seaside with pupils and parents at a London primary - a total of 1,100 people. In 14 coaches.

Many of the children - and a high number of parents - had never seen the sea. Jodie Collins, who worked in the tourism industry before becoming a teacher at South Rise Primary in Plumstead, south-east London, was given the job of changing that.

"The head and chair of governors thought it would be a particularly good experience," she said. "We knew of schools, smaller than ours, where they had taken all the pupils.

"But it wasn't just our children who had never been to the beach - it was their parents, too. Some families have arrived here from abroad and have no idea of what is around.

"The head says: 'Life is a series of memories'; we wanted to give them a memory."

Over the year #163;8,000 was raised through cake and car boot sales, mufti days, car washing sessions and a donation from the Sir William Boreman's Foundation charity. The decision was taken to go to Margate, in Kent, and in March, the 14 coaches were booked and the phone calls, emails and paperwork began.

Miss Collins alerted the local council in Margate so it could make sure there were enough lifeguards on duty and the beach and public toilets were clean. The owners of the closed Dreamland amusement park even allowed the school free all-day parking at the site.

On a pre-trip visit, Miss Collins called into cafes to let them know there would be 1,000 people wanting ice cream on the day and she arranged a bulk discount on the beach rides. The bowling alley, swimming pool and indoor play centre were also put on alert in case the weather was poor. Then on July 2, with police helping direct traffic outside the school, the party set off.

"As soon as we got to school everybody was screaming that they wanted to get on the first bus, we could see them coming down the street," said 10-year-old Jahlovei Ryan. "I was on the third or fourth bus with my friends.

"I liked swimming in the sea when the tide was coming in and the waves were splashing. The sand was really hot and we went to the shops and bought ice cream."

Tilly Bush, nine, agreed. "The best bit was going on the beach and playing," she said. "It was fun because everybody was there, it was just humongous. My mum came and we had a go at the sandcastle competition."

For Miss Collins the pupils' reaction was more than worth the enormous preparation. "Some children just stood there staring at the sand - the education is so implicit, there is no need to tell them this is science or this is geography, and there was no need to tell them on Monday to write (about the trip) - they all just wrote and wrote," she said.

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