Thank God it's Friday

5th August 2005 at 01:00
Monday Our London trip has been cancelled so we try to simulate the thrill of metropolitan life in rural Devon. It's like trying to build a personal computer out of potatoes, but by break we are able to distribute our new itinerary. How we laugh when we learn minutes later that the local bus company may strike at any time. We fill the rest of the day with rounders and board games, one of which, Cranium, takes an alarming turn when a card instructs a group of boys to act out the phrase "page 3 girl" using only gestures.

Tuesday We meet at Totnes railway station and realise Kelly is missing. Her mother calls. She won't be coming because she can't decide which bag to bring. We confront today's first challenge: accommodating 47 students on an unbooked train. The stationmaster calls ahead for us. He's managed to fit us all into the Quiet Coach.

After a great day at @Bristol, the science, arts and education centre, our train back is delayed. An unhelpful stationmaster books us on to a non-existent service; another, perhaps more highly qualified, appears and reserves a carriage on an earlier train. In the background, the unhelpful one sweeps up crisp packets and scowls.

Wednesday Our day in Exeter is marred only by a restaurant that takes 50 minutes to deliver fast food. In the evening, we see a production of The Comedy of Errors. The students are initially confused, but a wave of comprehension passes over them when both sets of twins are on stage simultaneously. Some of us sleep in the sixth-form centre and some camp outside. Tom, a Year 7 with Asperger's who's built himself a fortress out of chairs and surrounded it with toy elves, comes running out of the centre holding a copy of Loaded shouting, "Hey, you guys, they've got porn!"

Thursday Why did no one object to Mrs Chell's idea of making sandwiches on the beach? We decide that the only way to save lunch is to bury it. Miss Stephenson throws a wet towel over the grave. When children start to enquire about food, it takes a while to locate lunch because the towel has blown off, but when we finally dig it up, it's clear that even at the depth of a foot, this heat will reduce a simple picnic to lava.

Friday There's still unrest after last night's activities. A ghost story session has left Miss Gardner looking shaken and we're all worried that the CCTV cameras will have captured the results of our "Can you find" game.

Along with group challenges such as "Can you find the smallest seed?", we foolishly included the item "Can you find the biggest leaf?" This led to the decimation of the plants outside reception. In the early hours, I try to rectify the disaster by strategically inserting individual fronds back into the scrub, but in the cold light of day it still looks like a punk hairdo.

Jon Eaton teaches at Kingsbridge community college, Kingsbridge, Devon

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