My twelve year old son, Ollie, came home from his Spanish school, talking about a great trip he’d just had, visiting a newspaper printing works and a radio station in Palma. Did I have a problem with that? Absolutely not, but I found it odd that once again, I knew nothing about it beforehand. In his previous English school we had to sign notes of approval in advance of any trip and usually had to fork out a tenner at the very least. In my son’s case, such outings are seen as part of the curriculum and there’s a tacit assumption that parents will approve without the need for signed bits of paper. But what about risk? To my shame I heard myself asking my son whether safety belts were provided on the bus and even whether the driver was competent on the fast moving motorway. He gave me a pitying glance and muttered, ‘What are you on?’
That same lack of administrative zeal appears to be shown at summer camps. With a Mediterranean summer that yawns over three sizzling hot months, sending offspring to various camps is a no brainer but the Majorcan variety couldn’t be in more marked contrast to their UK counterparts. Having signed Ollie up for a well established camp en el camp, the countryside, I awaited a detailed programme with the usual medical and security forms and kit list. Nothing came. Fretfully, I rang the organiser. ‘Medical form?’ he yawned. ‘Is he likely to become unwell?’ As regards a programme, it transpired that the boys would be horse riding, mountain biking, canoeing, helping on a farm and hiking. Kit list? ‘Isn’t that just common sense?’ he asked. When I enquired about the level and quality of supervision, he gave a little laugh, explaining that they rarely had accidents and then only a few fractured limbs.
At the end of a sleepless week, in which I had conjured up all manner of horrors, we picked Ollie up from his camp. He was rosy cheeked, full of smiles, covered in mud, cuts and bruises and seemed to have amassed several chirpy, new amigos. The best thing, he told us, were the late night games in the forest when in teams they had to navigate their way in the dark to find tokens, while staff dressed as ghouls pursued them at every turn. He happily told me how a supervisor chucked him in the swimming pool fully dressed for being cheeky, and how the old, creaky van they were packed in, was such a thrill ride in the hills. They helped cook in the kitchen, learnt to ride a horse and had iodine rubbed on their frequent cuts. They were bitten by mosquitoes, stung by wasps and chased by bulls. He said it was a real adventure. In other words he’d had a rollicking good time.
‘Appalling!’ exclaimed a teacher friend in the UK when I cheerfully recounted his experiences. ‘What about health & safety? Heaven knows what might have happened!’
But it didn’t, did it? Surely that’s the point.
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