In the Monday before half term the whole of the prep school was out on the Dovedale walk, or in the case of Year 6, off to RAF Cosford on their way to a week’s adventuring with PGL.

I love the walk. Each time we do it there are different sights to see and it is always relaxing, even with three year groups of children in tow, to be walking through such beautiful countryside, so I was very sorry to have to miss it this year. It was then really unusual only to have Years 3 and 5 in the School on Tuesday and Wednesday as well, with Year 4 staying over at the Youth Hostel at Ilam Hall for two days.

Ilam Hall is at one end of the Dovedale walk and is a beautiful National Trust building and a super place for our children to stay for a couple of days and further enrich their educational experience. Barring sleepovers, for most children the first time they spend a night away from home is on a school residential trip. Spending a night away from your family is something that happens to all of us eventually and doing so with your school friends, staying somewhere that is fairly close to home is a great way to start down the road that leads eventually to greater independence.

We all know that education is a lifelong process, that it is about more than passing exams and that we owe it to our children to give them every opportunity to broaden their experiences, to try different activities for the first time, to help them find something that they really enjoy that they have never done before and to cope with challenging situations.

One such challenge can be (although not always, by any stretch of the imagination) spending time away from home. I used to get terribly homesick when I first started boarding school at 13, but my prep school did not run any residential trips, such adventures being very rarely offered in those dim and distant days.

Homesickness is not a weakness, it is not a reflection of the way that a family operates, nor does it reflect unfavourably on anyone who is suffering. What is important is that we help those who do find this experience difficult; each time you go away from home it gets a little bit easier, but there are no short cuts. I have always felt that it helps to have people around you whom know you, both in terms of the adults and the children and also that it is really important to keep busy and active when you are way. Hopefully by doing this you will be so tired when you eventually turn in that you will sleep like a log!

Not surprisingly, both Year 4 and Year 6 had a super time away. I really am grateful to Mrs Emmerson-Friend and Mr Bettaney for organising two such wonderful trips for our children and also to all of the other staff who accompanied them and made it possible to provide such memorable experiences for our children.

Jerry Gear