Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kids, caving and coal: The Robert Jeffery Centre, Govilon

It's not often I post about specific school stuff, but I've spent the last week away on a school trip and felt the need to write about it.

I took my year 7 form to the village of Govilon, near Abergavenny, at the South-Eastern end of the Welsh Brecon Beacons National Park. We stayed at the Robert Jeffery Centre, which was set up in 1971 (originally called Govilon Field Centre) by the Kettering Old Grammar School Foundation as a base for staff and students from Kettering schools while they took part in various courses.

Now, the centre employs specialists to run a wide range of courses. From Monday to Friday of last week myself, two other members of staff from my school and twenty-seven students took part in hill walking, night walking, caving, climbing, abseiling, orienteering and river-walking activities, and looking at the website I see that these are only a small selection of the wider courses available.

I don't want to talk about those, though: you can take part in such activities in a multitude of places throughout the British Isles, so I'd rather waffle about the aspects which may be specific to this particular centre.

First of all,

The Accommodation...
The lads stayed in one dormitory, the girls were split between two smaller rooms, and we three members of staff each stayed in our own room. This meant that every sleeping room was in use by us throughout our stay - there are beds for 36 people in total - so it felt like it was our own home from home for the week. There were plenty of showers and toilets for both staff and students and, despite visiting Wales in December, we were never cold (whilst inside the building...)

The Food ...
... was included in the price that the students paid, and it was better than the food you'd pay more for in a hotel: I had a cooked breakfast and cereal every morning, a packed lunch (sandwiches, crisps, chocolate and a piece of fruit) every day, and a three-course meal every evening. Hot chocolate and biscuits were provided as a supper time treat each night, and a couple of flasks of hot chocolate were brought along to warm up the kids after the colder, wetter activity days.

The food was prepared by a small team of ladies who also took care of other behind-the-scenes things at the centre including cleaning. They were all lovely in every way, friendly and approachable, very flexible and were even kind enough to put one of my boys' sleeping bags in the wash after an unfortunate nocturnal puking incident.

The Instructors ...
... were not only skilled and experienced in their fields, but also with regards to working with children. They built up a working relationship within minutes of meeting them, managed their behaviour perfectly and were patient to almost saintly levels. My kids all adored each one of them, and I can't fault the way they worked with my form, keeping their interest whilst keeping their behaviour in check!

The Kit ...
... for each activity was supplied or sourced by the centre, so the students didn't need to buy any of their own before coming. This included wellies and waterproof tops and trousers, so all we needed to bring was a decent supply of T-shirts and sweaters, alongside hats and gloves.

All in all my form and I had a fantastic week, for which we can't thank the staff and instructors at the Robert Jeffery Centre enough. If you're looking for somewhere to take your class for a week of fun, team building and outdoor activities*, then I can fully recommend the RJC in Govilon (yes, I did say it was for Kettering schools, and this is indeed who they mainly cater for, but I understand that they do let schools in other areas in on the action too). Here's that website again:

Oh yeah: I mentioned coal in the title, didn't I? One of the activities I didn't mention above was a trip to Big Pit. I'll give that it's own post.

* And also an opportunity for them to develop such skills as packing a bag with required equipment, thinking for themselves, and not forgetting to wear socks when spending a day on a mountain in Wales in December**.
** Yes, this actually happened. Twice.