School trips are absolutely terrifying: there’s a wrestle to get 30 children into fluorescent safety jackets; the dismay when the partners you have spent half an hour carefully selecting refuse to hold hands; and the agony when just as your small, ruck-sacked battalion has made it beyond the school gates, Thomas P decides to tell you he has left his packed lunch in the classroom.
Yet the stresses and strains of the risk assessment are soon forgotten as the pupils are released into a new environment. They begin to fascinate you with their charming world view: the frankness of children and their willingness to see even the most mundane things as something new and exciting always makes days out worthwhile in the end. ‘We’re really flying!’ was one student’s reaction to the Docklands Light Railway experience, while another asked: ‘Will we see any bats in this cave?’ as we went through a tunnel. But today’s star pupil was Harry* who can always be relied upon to make me smile: ‘What’s the Cutty Shark?’ I smiled but didn’t tell him. You see, we weren’t actually going to the Cutty Sark today, and I’m secretly relieved. This means Harry can believe that there’s a huge shark moored in Greenwich for just a bit longer.