Lesson 95 Oh We Do Love To Be Beside the Seaside

Lesson 95 on The dangers of volunteering


There was one last school trip. Really it was nothing to do with me and I should never have been on it, but life can be surprising.

I was sitting in the office one lunchtime, peacefully eating my sandwiches and idly looking through holiday rentals on the internet. (I was on my third post-early-retirement job, this time with a local education authority.) One of the senior managers came in with an urgent query regarding school journeys.

She had a distressed head teacher on the line. Their school journey to the Isle of Wight was due to leave in the morning, but they had a problem. One of the pupils was temporarily in need of a wheelchair.  He had a serious long term medical condition, but this was known and all the risk assessments had been approved. The wheelchair was nothing to do with that. He had had his verruca “done” and it hadn’t healed properly. He couldn’t put one foot to the ground, though his doctor was pretty sure it was on the mend and he was fit to travel.

“Can you check if there’s any way they can take him, Mrs Wise? He’s been looking forward to it so much and he’s come through a dreadful couple of years. I’d really like to be able to help them!”

“I can’t see any way round the regulations,” I shook my head sadly. “They need another teacher to take charge of the child in the chair.  What a shame!” Then I uttered the fateful words that had just flitted unbidden across my mind. “I’ve always liked the Isle of Wight!”

That was how I came to be standing outside The Blessed John Henry Newman Primary School at 8.30am the following morning.

My charge was hopping around. His poorly foot was in a slipper. He was not keen on the wheelchair and he didn’t like the look of me much either.  We reached an understanding though – it was either put up with Mrs Wise or stay at home. He grudgingly got into his conveyance.  His parents shed tears of gratitude. Then we were off!

There were three teachers and a classroom assistant with a first aid certificate accompanying the group.  As newly appointed Wheelchair Assistant I was put under the wing of Mrs FirstAider.  She had been at the school for many years and knew all the pupils well. The lead teacher was Miss Deputy, a youngish woman with a dreamy, distant smile. The other two were recent graduates in their probationary year and this was their first school journey. None of them were mothers, nor did they seem to have had much experience of dealing with children in a purely caring, rather than a formal teaching capacity.

The relevance of this soon became evident on the coach journey down to the coast.  Mrs FirstAider and I were speedily allocated our role by an unspoken agreement amongst the children. We were in charge of sick bags, toilets, lost property, fears and tears!

To be continued…….