My son came home a few weeks after starting high school excitedly clutching a printed sheet headed RESIDENTIAL ACTIVITIES MAY 2012.
The dog-eared state suggested it had been given much attention, as did the breathless way he discussed the contents.
Now we aren’t talking about the class-wide, inclusive, outdoor activity type residential activities that are in the calendar at the end of primary school. No, these are something else.
In the list were adventures with names like “Belgium and Alton Towers” and “London Shows and Shops”. My first thought was “for goodness sake, if anyone from this family is going to the shops in London it’s not going to be the 12-year-old boy”.
Now the jolly to Belgium, for example, costs £450 which admittedly probably isn’t that much for “sightseeing in Brugge, including canal trip and chocolate factory”, days at Bellawaerde Theme Park, a Calais hypermarket and then Alton Towers. However, it’s still quite a lot to find, plus all the inevitable spending money.
Also on the menu are ski-ing (£770) and a visit to Barcelona (£695) among others. I know travel broadens the mind and that trips such as these take a while to organise, but I’m still not comfortable with it.
Firstly, my boy and his pals are beside themselves with excitement about the whole thing. They see themselves on roller coasters and West End shows, having a ball. What they don’t see are very, very long coach journeys (we are near Glasgow) and being away from home and self-sufficient for what will feel like an eternity.
I know a lot of children will take a foreign trip in their stride, but my son is a very young 12-year-old who doesn’t cope well when things don’t go according to plan. He goes into a flat spin if there’s a special assembly, a class test and an afterschool activity on the same day.
Secondly, while my son tells me “everyone will go”, this plainly isn’t true. In small – and boring – print in the trip leaflet is a bit that says “a range of non-residential trips for the same days will be announced after Christmas”. These outings are great fun – theme parks, museums, extreme(ish) sports and so on – very popular, considerably more affordable and far less stressful for parents and child.
In our school’s case the trips are for first, second and third year children. Basically, as far as I can see, school wants them out of the way so the older ones can do their exams in peace.
After a few days of being badgered into spending a lot of money on a trip that might not be all my son expects, I rang the school. What I learned was that while the trips look tempting, what’s on offer closer to home is just as tempting. I was advised that, rather than booking a residential trip this year, we’d be better waiting until next year, or the year after, when my son would be hopefully more confident and little wiser in his choices.
It took a little persuading, but I know that he’ll have more fun on day trips that he knows he’s coming home from at the end of the day, equally, our stretched budget won’t have to take such a hit this year. Oxford Street, Alton Towers and Flanders Field will all still be there next year and we’ll have an extra 12 months of saving up.