Lesson 12 on Achieving the Seemingly Impossible.
I don’t know how I was lured into my most ambitious school trip ever. I suspect on this occasion I must have been carefully groomed by a conspiracy of pupils, because It just slowly seemed to become a manageable idea.
By this time I was in a school on a benighted estate, which was so poor and so troubled that we had our own Educational Welfare Officer (also known as Truancy Officer or Wag Woman), shared with the middle school next door. Every morning my first task of the day was to check the registers for absentees and list them. About ten o’clock Mrs EWO would come in with a similar list from the middle school. We would then compare the lists and work out her itinerary for the morning. This was not a draconian exercise in preventing truancy – it was a necessary practical check to ensure that the vulnerable had not come to harm.
It was scarcely surprising therefore that few of our pupils had ever been away on a proper school journey. We were a single sex school and many of our pupils were from Asian backgrounds. Few of them were allowed to go on overnight stays in mixed sex groups, so most schools at the time just accepted that it was impossible to take them away.
We however hatched a plan. If we could get a reasonably priced B&B all to ourselves, we could take a group away and meet the single sex requirement. We aimed for the Isle of WIght.
It was quite a task before the internet, to trawl through the information and brochures, but we did it. We collected the money in numerous weekly installments to enable payment to be manageable. We planned the journey by train, because it was cheaper than hiring a coach. When we got there we would just have to walk and use public transport.
In the end there were twenty of us, including myself and the PE teacher plus her two children, because she couldn’t very well leave them at home alone.
When we got to the guest house after a traumatic journey (more of that another time) we were faced with the allocation of rooms. All were shared except one small single room, which nobody wanted. In the end I asked Sukvinder, a very kind quiet little girl, if she could possibly bring herself to take it. We agreed that she could swap if, after the first night, she really could not bear it.
At breakfast the next morning I found Sukvinder wreathed in smiles.
“Miss it is wonderful! I can put my things down just where I want to! I can have everything just as I like! Nobody moves my hairbrush!”
“So you want to stay in the room then?”
“Oh yes, Miss! I feel just like a princess!”
And the reason for the room’s unpopularity dawned on me. It was not just that they wanted to share with their friends. None of them had ever been on their own before.