Every now and again my Tube ride to work on the District line is enlivened by children on a school outing.
Presumably they are heading for the Science Museum or possibly the National Gallery. Often, they have different coloured badges stuck to their jumpers. As far as I can work out, if, for example, you are a red, then you’re meant to sit with other reds, and sometimes the teacher barks instructions such as: ‘Could the reds try to be a little quieter please?’, or asks: ‘Blues, how many more stops until we get there?’
This last question gives rise to a piercing shriek as a dozen or so blues shout out their answers, sometimes coinciding with the doors opening at Fulham Broadway, giving commuters just enough time to rush off in search of a child-free carriage.
I suspect that when the children get home and their parents ask what was the highlight of the day, they will have forgotten about the cetacean skeletons and extinct mammoths and decide that getting there and back on the train was by far the best bit.
Even so, everyone — not least the Department for Education — agrees that ‘learning out of the classroom’, as the jargon goes, is a good thing, though there’s no doubt that in the private sector, school trips are another way of persuading prospective parents to pay their deposits. ‘We try to take each child to Venice at least once while they are here,’ has an aspirational ring to it, but heaven knows what an excursion of that kind must add to the fees.
Judging by the little ones on my train, it’s never too early to take children on an outing. My daughter teaches reception class at a primary in Balham and tells me her class has three trips per year, often including a visit to a zoo or farm.