Ready, steady, teach - A palace of delights

16th January 2009 at 00:00

The school trip. When properly executed, this can be an exciting, curriculum-enhancing encounter, enabling pupils to experience new places, putting learning into context and escape the daily routine of the classroom.

For a PGCE student embarking on her first school trip, it looms ahead as a terrifying experience - and this time I'm not even in charge.

It would be easy for teachers to dodge this logistical nightmare, using virtual online tours or photographs. No three-hour round trip on six trains starting at the tail-end of London rush hour. No risk of children getting lost, tripping over or getting travel sickness. No complaining parents when you arrive back late, no frantically gathering other pupils' leftovers for the child who left their packed lunch on the train and no cries of: "I need the toilet" or the classic: "Are we there yet?" five minutes into the journey. However, even for a sceptical first-timer such as me, these earlier worries faded away when I saw the children's faces and heard their gasps upon arriving at our destination.

Hampton Court Palace is a beautiful sight for even the most seasoned visitor, but for a class of Year 3 children from inner London it was almost overwhelming.

Young imaginations are easily fired and the words we had written and spoken in class about the Tudors came alive. They were fascinated exploring the old kitchens, led by a guide in Tudor costume. Their questions were insightful and enthusiastic, a far cry from the reception some of my history lessons had received in the classroom.

They were respectful and calm in the chapel and sat quietly, sketching the intricate architectural features of the former home of Henry VIII.

My first school trip was exhausting. I arrived home at 7pm ready to drop, but wearing a wry smile. Yes, it was draining and I wouldn't advocate doing it every week, but indubitably it was one of the highlights of my school practice. It taught me so much about how to engage a young mind and what enormous potential lies within. A good school trip offers us a huge helping hand.

Vicky Burrill is an NQT teaching Year 5 at Redriff Primary School in Rotherhithe, London.

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