Lesson 33 on How Not to Organise a School Outing
I was very fond of the Easter Assembly school. It was an old building, one of those imposing Victorian three storey red brick Board Schools, with a separate Boys and Girls entrance, surrounded by a walled yard. It was situated on the southern extremities of the Northern Line.
One day I received a phone call from a trainee teacher doing her school practice there. She was organising a trip for all three forms of 6-7 year olds and she was short of another adult to accompany the group. Could I come along? She was planning to take them to the Commonwealth Institute.
I agreed, so long as I just had to turn up on the day and do minder/ sheepdog duties.
I turned up bright and early on the appointed day, expecting to see the coaches waiting by the school entrance. There were none there.
When I went into the school, the three forms were all ready and lined up, teachers and Mums in attendance.
“Where are the coaches?” I asked anxiously
“Oh, we’re not going by coach, ” Miss Trainee cheerfully responded. “It was too expensive. We’re going on the tube!”
“But surely there isn’t a direct line to Kensington?”
“No, but it’s quite an easy change!” she replied breezily.
“Have you tried it out?” My heart was now in my boots.
“No, but my boyfriend does it all the time and he says it’s no problem!”
It was a long, slow walk for a 6 year old from the school to the station, and when I had a chance to look at the tube map I saw with horror that there were in fact two changes, not just one. I was relieved I was not in charge. The deputy head was one of the form teachers, so she was the senior person. I just had to look after my delegated group and made sure they didn’t wander off or fall under a train.
It was a hot day and quite a walk from the station at the other end. By the time we got there it was lunch time, so we had to sit down and have our sandwiches. We only had a short time to view the displays, which was just as well, as the Commonwealth institute was possibly the most boring and unsuitable exhibition imaginable for 90 hot and tired 6 year olds.
Just as we were making sure that everybody who needed to go, had been to the toilet, one of the Mums came over with a distressed member of her group. Angela was wheezing heavily.
I turned to Miss Trainee. “Have you got Angela’s inhaler?” I asked.
“Her what?” said Miss Trainee blankly.
“Her asthma inhaler!” I barked
“I never knew she had asthma!” By this time Mrs Deputy Head had come up. “Oh dear! Is Angela having one of her attacks? I suppose one of us had better take her home!”
“”Take her home!” I hissed with suppressed fury. “Nobody can take her home! One of us has to take her to the nearest A&E and get her on a nebuliser.”
“I suppose it had better be me then, as I’m the most senior” said Mrs Deputy Head. “So that means you will have to be in charge!”
By now everybody was having a really bad time. Nothing could make a success of this disastrous expedition.
But I was mistaken. Just as we were going back through the gardens, a cry of delight came from the front of the line. The children were clustered round an ornamental wooden bridge over a largish pond. Floating on the water underneath them was a brightly plumaged dead duck.
The boredom of the exhibition was forgotten. This was something worth seeing! It took us a long time to ensure that everybody had a good view, before making for the tube.
I can remember mercifully little of the nightmare journey home, except that we had to line the pupils up with their backs firmly against the platform wall while we waited for the train at our two change stations, then dash all 90 on board, making sure nobody was left behind.
When we got back to school the head was waiting for us, all smiles.
“And did you have a nice time?” she asked the children.
“Oh yes, Miss! It was great!” they chorused. “We saw a dead duck!”