Rucstall Primary School

A caring, fun loving, learning community


5.17am: Day 4 has dawned on the Isle of Wight; it’s a beautiful sunny start with what looks like a fresh breeze blowing to assist the aqua park. It’s been another very quiet night in the hotel and there are currently no elephant footsteps upstairs which means everyone is still in bed. All the staff have joined me for a a few moments of peace before the wake-up rounds begin. The last full day on the island is set to be another active one with the annual Year 6 v putting on a wetsuit battle. It should be entertaining.



The waking up route this morning required a bit more teacher input. I needed to tap a bit harder on the wooden frames before signs of life were displayed. There were, however, plenty of signs of life strewn across the floors. None of it was human…or even earthly for that matter. Alien lifeforms are a fairly typical Thursday morning scene. In AJ’s room, Taeon and Denis were standing in the one small patch of carpet that was free of debris. Next door, I almost stood on a giant-sized Cornish pasty that was stylishly perched between a Nike trainer and a crumpled leavers hoodie. This is obviously where the bakers on The Bake Off get their inspiration for presenting their food. Unsurprisingly, Miss Radford had a much more sedate journey through her rooms.


Oh, and Mrs Buckthorpe – I did ask Finley whether he had brushed his teeth yet this week. You are right, the teenager deathly stare is harrowing. However, judging by the toothpaste stains on his jumper – I think we’re all good.


After leaving the children for 20 minutes or so to get ready, we returned to the rooms. It's safe to say they're a long way from being bouncy and energetic this morning. In Room F11 Finley was sitting cross-legged on his bed with the classic Thursday morning 100 yard stare. No eye, muscle or limb movement at all...just a Year 6 boy in a trance. Yakub looked defeated and was simply lying flat staring at the ceiling, Jamie was curled up in a ball under his duvet while Jenson was face down like a plank. Room F10, Lucas was sitting up but looking very disorientated. The remaining boys in F10 (Jacob, Denis and Taeon) were all out of bed and standing in the centre of the room. There was little to suggest they were human rather than statues but at least they were up. The remaining child in F10, AJ, was feeling better after feeling a little unwell last night (don’t worry parents – he is fine) – We’re convinced it was the late-night munchies. In Room F9, there were lots of limbs hanging limply from the bunks from Sonny. Frankie, as he has been all week, was up and ready to go. Charlie and Ujwal were playing cards in the lounge so at least they were heading in the right direction to the breakfast room.


The girls were all awake but prefer the leisurely approach in the mornings. Mr Fifield and I find it infuriating that we have a schedule to keep yet the girls seem oblivious to this. How do the girls go from pyjamas, to having a shower, to being ready for the day, to then get back in pyjamas because, I quote, “There’s another 10 minutes until breakfast.” AND EVEN WHEN you think we’re good to go, nope – there’s always a queue of girls waiting to get their hair sorted by Mrs Healy. THERE’S BEEN NOBODY IN THE SALON QUEUE FROM 6AM YET WHEN WE NEED TO LEAVE, THEY ARE ALL STOOD NONCHALANT IN A LINE LIKE WE HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD. Not that this is a big deal at all. I’m surprised the boys haven’t turned this into an enterprise project and started selling hot drinks and magazines to the girls whilst they wait in line.


Okay, we’re good to go. We hope you all have an enjoyable day and we will touch base again tonight.

(16 minutes later. Nope, Desmarie is having her hair put into plaits. Point taken.)



Mrs Healy and I gave a very detailed talk about what to take to Tapnell Farm, what they absolutely mustn’t forget and how, each year, at least 2-3 boys forget to take their pants/shorts for the changing after. Surely this tactic would reap reward in 2024. Only time would tell, and to be fair, I wasn’t holding my breath. In fact, it was Mr Fifield last year who found himself without underwear after the aqua park.


The instructors ran through all the instructions in great detail…several times over.

“Here’s the wetsuit, it will be inside out so you need to turn it the right way around. The zip goes at the back. You put your legs in first, into the legs of the wetsuit, not in the arms. Make sure your knee pads are on your knees not on your shins. This is the buoyancy aid, the zip goes at the front. Stand on the fake grass, not the concrete when you put your wetsuit on.”


Bearing in mind that some of the boys have struggled this week to comprehend the need to keep socks and shoes in pairs, I wasn’t overly optimistic of a successful operation. Instructions complete, the children disappeared into the changing rooms. Soon there were children everywhere, hopping on one leg whilst straining, grunting, groaning, huffing and puffing to get their wetsuits on. Charlie was having a particularly tough time trying to squeeze his right leg into the arm of the wetsuit.

“I thought it was a bit skinny” he said.

Alongside him, Finley was complaining that his wetsuit was wet, Jacob had the zip at the front and Layla, after winning a frantic 10-minute battle to get aqua park-ready, was advised by Miss Radford, “Layla, your wetsuit is back to front.”


Wetsuits eventually on the right way for all, buoyancy aids added and adjusted, they headed off to jump into the lake. Mrs Healy settled into a suitable vantage point from the café and listened in for the tell- tale signs of them having the time of their lives. It didn’t take long for the screams, squeals, whoops and laughter to start. Music to the ears, they were having a fabulous time. 


Desmarie was the bravest as she attempted to throw me into the lake; she succeeded twice. Other foolish mortals tried but alas, very few were successful. 10 gold stars to Julie - I kept trying to throw her in but she was able to hold on for dear life!


Sitting alongside Mr Fifield, he then informed me about a comment made by a child which possibly points to them being an insider working secretly for the DfE. Apparently, the child said to him, “I know you work hard but it’s quite good being a teacher. I mean, you get to go on holidays to the Isle of Wight…and you even get paid.” I am going to check if he's had any contact from Gillian Keegan, received any mysterious padded brown envelopes in the post this week or is on the DfE payroll as we’re likely to see said child fronting the next major national recruitment drive for teachers in September. Alas, the poor child is mistaken - the poor staff certainly do not get paid for this week.


I headed over to the changing rooms to collect my bounty of clothing and accessories for sale where I found two boys who were standing in their towels and t-shirts staring vacantly at the walls.

“Boys, hurry up, put your shorts on and let’s go.” I said as I scooped unwanted items off the floor.

“Are these yours?“


“Where are your shorts? “

“Err, we’ve left in the room at the hotel” I was crestfallen but it happens every year. I should have known better than to think my pre-departure talk would change the course of history.


I left them to get sorted and headed outside to photograph my items for sale that included: 1 Nike bag, 1 drawstring bag, 1 pair of sunglasses, 1 large spray gun of Nivea Kids Factor 50, 2 pairs of swim shorts, 1 t-shirt, 1 water bottle and 1 surf shack cap. Not a bad return for 30 seconds’ work. Instead of updating The Blog, I quickly uploaded the items onto Facebook Market Place (Mrs Griffiths said you get more money than using Ebay.) As I was celebrating my newly-acquired wealth, I was quickly reminded that I still had my wetsuit on! So, a frantic few minutes later I was heard shouting out the changing room, "Mr Fifield...did you by any chance bring deodorant?" Good news, he had some so that avoided the potential for a smelly coach on the return trip. Or so I had hoped - forgetting all the children had beans for breakfast. 


After the aqua park, the children enjoyed the remainder of the day on the bouncy pillows, the trampolines, go-karts, penalty shoot-outs, play parks, hay bales and all the other fun activities the site had to offer. You will notice, we managed to find more wallabies - seriously, the Isle of Wight is littered with them. Anyway, the children enjoyed more stroking and feeding them. I think the children enjoyed the excessive stroking more than the poor animals to be fair. Several times I witnessed the heads stroked so hard that their eyeballs nearly popped out. In more positive news, we got to see baby joeys! 


Tonight the children are off swimming (again!) - we will update in a bit. 



Well, what a final water polo match: 6-5 to the adults (with some help from the girls and Jamie). The children enjoyed an extra hour in the pool with the usual residential playlist.


Funny/Interesting mentions:

-Mrs Healy and Yakub achieved 242 consecutive volleys in the pool without the ball dropping

-The children were unsure why they had to wear their swimsuits under their wetsuits. When we explained to them that other children had used the wetsuits today, they quickly realised. 

-Miss Radford is sat in the lounge this evening with an ice pack on her head - these pool polo championships can be dangerous

-Mr Fifield has run out of the fake tan. They'll be no more orange glows to light up the corridor tonight

-Miss Radford screamed in the aqua park when a fish apparently nibbled on her toe. I've informed the RSPCA in case the dead skin causes the poor fish to choke

-Lucas beat Mrs Healy in a thumb war

-A proud moment when Aria jumped off the top of the aqua park tower - it took a while to build up the confidence but she was amazing. 

-Miss Radford during golf today fell backwards into a plant pot. We didn't quite see the fall but we saw the legs dangling in the air!

-To sum up the trip, one child quoted, "This has been the best day of my life."


And finally...

This is a rather surreal moment for me as I sit here writing the last blog, not just for this residential, not just for Rucstall Primary School but probably my last ever blog for any residential. I can't see me having the time to attend residentials in the future - never mind being able to blog about them. I've been fortunate to have led many trips and residentials over the years and, ignoring non-Isle of Wight trips, I've been bringing school groups to the Isle of Wight since 2012. A lot has changed since then: most notably the wifi speed enables me to upload more than 10 photographs in 30 minutes. But other things have changed too: the world is different, particularly post-Covid and it saddens me that our children are growing up in a world which encourages them to rush through their childhood. This trip has always re-tipped the balance in my opinion. You'd never get Year 6 children to play in a pretend castle at school yet this trip helps children to be children again. Particularly important for them to experience the thrills of childhood one more time before they move on to secondary school. So, as I close off for the last-ever evening, a few thoughts and reflections:


The modern education system forces schools and children into so many pressurised boxes, but it does not allow the capture of the real mission of a primary school. Ofsted (which we’re still waiting for the report to be able to share with you!) and SAT’s do not record the moment when one boy offers to carry his friend’s rucksack because he appears to be struggling (I’m not sure what’s in the rucksack but it’s the size of a parachute.) They do not highlight the moment when one of the girls puts some of her spending money in a charity collection box “because the zoos do amazing things like saving animals”. Neither do they capture the moment when two girls have their arms around their friend when she is having a difficult moment. 


Our role as primary educators is to help nurture, inspire and support children to become confident, responsible and committed members of society so they can live fruitful, happy and successful lives. These experiences this week help this mission enormously and the fact that none of them will ever be recognised by Ofsted or SAT’s reports is irrelevant. I am proud to have been the Deputy Headteacher of this group of children; they have been fabulous company and wonderful ambassadors all week.


So, for the very last time...I'd like to wish you all a good evening.


P.S. The Asthmatic Fox and I will update you tomorrow with the final morning blog.