Alison Read: Banchory Academy, Aberdeenshire
Alison Reid is an art teacher at Banchory Academy. She leads a popular annual watersports trip to PGL La Fosca in Spain. We wanted a teacher’s view of this kind of trip, so we spoke to her just after she had returned from another successful week away with her third year pupils.
PGL - Tell us about the trip you run - when does it take place and why?
Alison - We run the watersports trip during our school’s activities week in May. It’s always over-subscribed. It’s the trip that all the pupils want to go on - it has a great reputation in the school and lots of the pupils who sign up have a brother or sister who has been before.
PGL - As an art teacher you’re maybe not the most obvious choice for running a school adventure trip to Spain, so why do you think a trip like this is important for the school and the students who take part?
Alison - No – you’re right - this is not about my subject, but as a teacher it is a very, very rewarding trip to run, and worth every bit of effort. It gives the children confidence, it’s teaches them teambuilding - and, of course, they love the experience.
PGL - So what benefits do you feel your students get out of it?
Alison - Well, let me give you an example. We had a boy this year, who was not such an academic type, but out in La Fosca he really shone - he was an absolute star! I don’t think anyone had really ever praised him up and said, “you’re really, really good at that!” It’s things like that I think are really important.
Also, it’s great for relationships between staff and students - as well as between the students themselves. The kids get to see you differently; being outside the teaching environment means they see a completely different side of you. Good relationships have a vital impact on what we do and achieve in school.
Once the trip is over they come back with stronger friendship groups, a better ability to build relationships and much more confidence. For example, there was a really shy wee girl booked on the trip this year, who wanted to pull out because her friends weren’t going. Her family and friends worked really hard to persuade her to go. She did go in the end, and did really well, and made new friends within the group - that was an enormous achievement for her, and I think that’s really good.
Pupils get to interact with a variety of adults - the coach drivers for example - and they learn how important it is to be polite, how to conduct themselves and so on.
When we got back from this year’s trip a couple of the boys actually came up to me and said, “now we understand, Miss, why you wanted us to make the effort to get on with the drivers!”, which was really great. They had really taken it on board!
So, it’s about discovering how to get the best out of people - and what could be more important than that?!
PGL - So why does Banchory Academy go back to La Fosca, (PGL’s centre in Spain), year after year? After all, coming from Scotland it seems a long way to go!
Alison - Speaking personally, I really don’t mind the long trip down there - there’s nothing you can do but relax and watch back-to-back videos with the kids - it’s great to have an excuse to do absolutely nothing!
I really like La Fosca - far from being the very basic campsite that I was expecting, the facilities there are really good.
I also like the fact that the various watersports take place at different beaches in the area which gives us the chance to enjoy the surroundings - the drive over to Tossa de Mar for the snorkelling, for example, is really beautiful.
PGL - Can you tell me why you choose to travel with PGL?
Alison - There are lots of reasons of course. Firstly it’s the people at PGL - they are exceptionally nice and they work so hard for us and I really appreciate them: I cannot praise them enough. You tend to see the same faces and they obviously enjoy their work - they are so helpful and nice and amazingly good with the kids. They do a fabulous job.
Then there’s the actual programme. The kids get so much out of it and do so many activities - especially for the money. The instructors get a lot out of the kids - I wouldn’t want to change the programme.
Then in the evenings the Groupies are great at getting the kids involved in all the activities - they just love all that. It even gives us the chance to relax. I always take five staff and we look after each other so we usually take it in turns to have a bit of time to ourselves. But we’re there for the kids of course.
And finally, I have confidence in PGL. It is a really good firm - I always say to the kids and the parents that I always feel safe when I am with the PGL staff doing the activities. The safety is really good and they are always looking out for the kids. I have seen your guys operate in fairly windy weather and they are amazing - just how they pull everything together and look after the kids. They are amazing - I am full of admiration for them.
PGL - Thank you Alison, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.