Bonjour et bienvenue de Paris, Je m’appelle Monsieur Southerington. This week’s blog comes from “The Most Magical Place on Earth”. No, not Boundary Park, but Disneyland.
Some of our Year 8 pupils have spent 4 days in France on the Year 8 residential, experiencing highs and lows, thrills and spills, speaking and listening to foreign languages and generally having a fantastic time.
Daniel, Leo, Lee, Nicholas, Keal, Dylan, Harry and Namal, supported by Miss Price, Miss Davies, Mr Price, Mr Stewart, Mr Newton, Mr Roscoe and myself, arrived at New Bridge School in the early hours of Tuesday morning. As pupils walked towards the school doors, the look of excitement, nerves…and some bags under the eyes, were all apparent. Bags loaded, and seats found, the coaches set off and our adventure officially began.
The Lord of Traffic was smiling on us as we made fantastic time to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone, stopping only for a bite to eat just outside of London. Keal and Dylan were lucky to spot Ex Premier League footballer, Grant Holt, who kindly posed with them for a photograph..
Passport Control was a breeze and within no time, the coach entered the Eurotunnel train. For some of our pupils, this was their first time abroad, and for many of them it was the first time on the Channel Tunnel. There was a bit of disappointment when it was pointed out that you wouldn’t be able to see any fish out of the window!
The train set off and it gave the young people a chance to mingle more with their peers from Hollinwood Academy and New Bridge. In order to pass the time, a bit of inter school athletics was organised, with good sportsmanship being displayed by all the young people.
30 miles and 35 minutes later, we arrived in Calais. A quick headcount on each of the coaches, and we were off again. The journey to Explorers Hotel was approximately 4½ hours of driving time, and once we arrived, Mr Quinn was there to greet us. We were allocated our rooms, and quickly unpacked and got ready for bed – it was going to be an early start for our first full day in Disney.
After an early rise, we made our way down to the Plantation Restaurant for a hearty breakfast of fruit, baguettes, meats, cheeses and yoghurts. The excitement was building, and the questions were flowing “Can I go on the fast rides?”, “Will we see Mickey Mouse?” and “Why is the TV all in French?”
All was to be answered soon enough as our pupils boarded the coach for their first day in the Park. Walking through the Disney gates, I’m not too sure who was more excited, the staff, or the students! All of a sudden, the 14 hour coach drive the day before was a distant memory and the focus was “what rides are we going on first?”
After the initial amazement of Main Street, we headed straight to Discoveryland and HyperSpace Mountain – a Star Wars themed roller coaster. At this point, all the group were bragging about how they love fast rides, and the faster the better. However, 5 minutes later, there were a couple of changes of heart.
Adrenaline pumping, the group jumped onto the Buzz Lightyear ride, and shot and spun themselves around, aiming at the aliens who were trying to take over Planet Zurg. Our Spring Brook Space Rangers acquitted themselves well and it was ‘mission accomplished’ when we reached the end of the ride.
The Stunt Show was a real winner for the pupils. They watched, opened mouthed, as the next 20 minutes were filled with intense live action – screeching motorbikes, gun shots, car chases, pyrotechnics and impossible jumps. The lads took every opportunity to film and photo the show, and whooped with excitement as cars were driven on 2 wheels, stunt men were engulfed in flames and motorbikes, with their engines roaring sped past in front of us.
There was an opportunity for Spring Brook to lay claim to the throne of England, with the legend of The Sword in the Stone. It is said that
“Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise ruler born of England”. After a couple of good attempts, including Mr Pryce having a go, we decided that we weren’t going to jump in front of Prince Charles as next in line to the throne…maybe next year’s group will have better luck?
We boarded the land train for the ‘Behind the Scenes Tour’, and saw many props from famous films – Armageddon, Dinosaur, 101 Dalmatians and Pearl Harbor – but the real excitement came when the train stopped at the set depicting a quarry. The earth started shaking. Fire and explosions surrounded us, followed by a flood of biblical proportions..
This was all just the magic of Hollywood, showing how special effects are used to create these types of scenes in films. However, as you can see in the video, some of the boys thought it was a little too real!
If you go to Disneyland, there is one ride which is a must – “It’s a Small World”. Not many rides scare me, but this one really does! I built this up to the young people as a terrifying ride which would haunt them for a long time to come…and it lived up to the hype.
Obviously, I was joking and the boys took it in good stead. Dylan came up to me afterwards and said ‘Thanks sir, that song is stuck in my head now!” No problem, Dylan glad you enjoyed it!!
Indiana Jones and Big Thunder Mountain rollercoasters proved a big hit with the pupils as they were sent spinning, twisting and looping around the ride. The screams of delight were all too clear to hear as pupils whizzed around the tracks.
Our pupils did mix the rough with the smooth, and sometimes just wanted to ‘chill’. The visually stunning ‘Ratatouille’ ride and Aladdin’s Flying Carpets gave a bit of a break from the dips and dives of Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster and ‘Crush’s Coaster’.
All this was just the 1st day!! Exhausted, we returned back to the coaches and made our way to the hotel.
The 2nd day in the park was spent revisiting the rides that pupils enjoyed, trying to muster up the courage to go on the Tower of Terror, watching the Marvel Superhero live action shows and generally trying to cram as much excitement into our last day before heading back to the hotel to pack.
The young people certain took full advantage of this, and went of the rides multiple times. As the second day drew to a close, there was just enough time to visit the souvenir shops to look for presents and gifts. Mr Roscoe managed to find himself some lovely Minnie Ears – they really do suit him!
We said our farewells to Disneyland and left the park, full of adrenaline, pride, excitement and confidence.
Leaving early on Friday morning, there was a slight subdued feeling on the coaches. The Disney experience was over, and the journey home had begun. The boys took the chance to catch up on a few hours sleep in order to make the journey go a bit quicker. Several hours later, we arrived back at New Bridge School, to be greeted by families and carers. Disney 2019 had finished.
The Disney residential is about building relationships, experiencing new things, developing existing skills and generally having fun, and I strongly believe that the pupils achieved these. Without the young people, there is no residential, likewise, without the staff, there is no residential either. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Spring Brook staff who came to France and worked tirelessly in supporting the pupils at Disney.
Equally important, I want to thank the staff who stayed behind in England to ensure that the remaining young people continued to be supported in school.
The Spring Brook family is one that I am proud to be part of due to the support that we offer one another, without hesitation, in order to get the best outcomes for the pupils.
To finish, I want to quote Walt Disney himself. I use this quote when people ask me to describe the Spring Brook ethos, and after this week in France, I feel it has even more meaning:
Around here, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
Au revoir et merci.