Our Year 5 & 6 children travelled to France at the beginning of May and here Mrs Abbott, our Languages Leader, shares her experience:

“Yesterday, I got an invitation to book some dates for our next trip to France.  We only returned from this year’s trip on Friday.  I am still recovering from the sleepless nights and the weeks of preparation that cast every other task on my to-do list into oblivion.  Do I really want to start another booking, planning and implementing marathon, and is it really worth all the stress, anxiety and hard graft?  Yes, most definitely!

The amount that can be gained from a school residential trip is unquantifiable.  Apart from the obvious increase in independence and evident rise in self-esteem that many will display on their return, children also forge deeper friendships, become actively engaged in their learning and create lifelong memories. Read what the children said in Memories of France.

Many of the children on last week’s trip stepped out of their comfort zone on so many occasions, whether it was ordering a drink in French, trying snails or frogs’ legs, or working out their change in euros.  Some children needed an extra nudge to repeat the French phrases, some discovered their limits when it came to foreign foods, and some lost their money and their purse with it, never to find it again.  (Fortunately, their pocket money was replenished every day!)  Whether they felt like they had succeeded or not, all had triumphed in tackling a new experience head on, and coming out the other side, insight gained into their own personal reactions and that of others.

Not only are deep-rooted friendships created, but teacher/pupil relationships are also strengthened, sometimes in surprising ways.  Having seen Mr Chesworth acting out the Little Mermaid, while stretching out on a precariously placed log, it is difficult to imagine a time when he was “just” the Headteacher!  “I can picture you in tights and a tutu Mr Jones!” was possibly our favourite quote of the week, and one that would probably not have arisen in the school gym!  And a number of children commented on the kindness of the staff in understanding their needs, not least Mr Jeens who,
“saved Logan’s life on several occasions!”  (It wasn’t quite as dramatic as that but may have seemed that way to Logan’s best friends!)

On our return, I asked the children for their own thoughts about what they had gained from the experience.  Apparently, they learnt everything from how to wash their hair in the sink with a bottle (or rather, how not to), that raspberries left in a bag will make everything sticky, how not to fold a sleeping bag, that it’s a good idea to take your glasses off before a pillow fight, that where there are no roads, there are fields, and, my favourite, that a true friend always comforts you when you are most down.  And while I am delighted with the list of French words that they produced to say what they had learnt, including on nearly everyone’s list, the word for seal (le phoque), the aim of the trip was never to learn more French, but to broaden their horizons, which I can safely say, was achieved. Their answers, while occasionally funny, encompass the essence of what their first journey into independence should be: a safe, secure, daring adventure.

These children will be far more prepared the next time they undertake a school residential.   They will know that homesickness is most likely to attack in the evenings but by morning, everything will be fine.  They will understand the value of friendship and how to recognise it.  They will realise that people do actually speak this strange language that I endeavour to teach them and that they respond favourably when someone attempts it.  And they won’t have to spend the weeks preceding the trip asking if they have to eat the snails, because they will have the autonomy to make the balanced decision themselves and hopefully, the fortitude to take on measured risks with courage.