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Wednesday 5th June

Morning: Blackgang Chine Theme Park

Afternoon: Sandown Beach games

Evening: Shanklin Theatre performance

6.30am: Wednesday morning, the midpoint of the trip and, as always, I’m in reflective mood. Yesterday afternoon’s weather wasn’t as good as originally forecast but, apart from that, this trip has run very smoothly and to plan. Your children’s behaviour, manners, friendship & compassion for each other have shone through from the start…and, last night, the sleeping was ace, led once again by the boys’ rooms.

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 Catholic primary school. Ofsted and SAT’s do not record the moment when one boy offers to carry his friend’s rucksack along the prom 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 RNLI do amazing things like saving people, they are so brave”. Neither do they capture the moment when two girls have their arms around their friend when she is having a difficult moment. They do not take the audio of the moment one of the children tidies away all the rubbish and puts it all in the bin at Monkey Haven “because litter is bad for the environment and can hurt the animals”.

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 be the headteacher of this group of children; they have been fabulous company and wonderful ambassadors all week.

The sun is shining between broken clouds this morning so I’m hoping for a slightly brighter day. By 2.30pm yesterday I was beginning to wish I’d changed into my long trousers but I’m remaining optimistic and have donned the shorts again today. Blackgang Chine is quite hilly so all the climbing may help to keep me warm but I’m taking along a couple of extra layers of tops just in case. Blackgang Chine is promoted as a theme park but always makes me feel like I’ve been transported back to the 1970’s which reminds me…Mrs Holt and I have officially awarded Owen with honorary Mancunian status due to his utterly awesome 70’s style leather Adidas bag, worn in perfect fashion across the body. It has made us very nostalgic. All he needs now is a matching bucket hat and an anorak, which he may have in his suitcase… although it is so big it may take him a while to find them in there. I’ve advised Owen that his bag is ace…but to really capture the true spirit of The Republik of Mancunia, he needs to get a red one next time 😊

OK, it’s almost time to do the waking up rounds, so I’ll sign off for now. I hope you are making some sense of my inane ramblings and meandering story lines. More to come later today, so check back regularly…


On the wake-up rounds I first headed into Black Magik where several of the boys were already awake. Max T’s head appeared swiftly from beneath a duvet.  “What time is breakfast, I’m starving” he said. “And a very good morning and happy Wednesday to you too” I replied. Interestingly, after miraculously disappearing last night, the festering monochrome mound had returned, only this time it was slightly bigger. We are definitely dealing with nocturnal creatures in the Black Magik cabin, so a family of badgers remains my main line of investigation.

Along the corridor in Room 1, Jamie, wearing his NASA t-shirt, had already left the launch pad and was all set to start the day. Clearly, the adrenalin rush is still pumping around his body after his ten-pin glory last night. The honorary Mancunian was also awake, but only just. He was sitting motionless on the edge of his bunk with a fixed stare in his eyes…which was a rather common sight in the Madchester scene of the 80’s.

At breakfast, Mary who is sitting closest to the staff table, found her mischevious meal time grin which meant only one thing. Another riddle or joke was coming and one of the staff would be under the spotlight. ‘The People’ in Room 2 have been the source of meal time riddles and jokes all week, with Liza and Mary especially prolific. They’ve had great fun catching out the teachers with their questions and quick wit. This morning, Mary’s radar had lasered in on Mrs Capindale…who managed to get the question right, much to her delight as we all watched on.

The other big breaking news coming out of Room 2 is that as it is Wellbeing Wednesday, the face mask spa experience could be in operation later today if time allows. The fact that it has been offered has already boosted the staff wellbeing so it is job done whatever happens later. Apparently, the lead therapists are Liza, Maddy and Jess. I enquired about their range of available treatments which I now know include: face masks (including coloured, flower-scented & animal patterned), face rolling, perfumes, lotions, creams, sleeping mists, exfoliators and pink toilet roll from France. Plus, hair plaiting courtesy of Miss Hunter’s mobile hair salon. This is definitely the high end of a high-end establishment. It's no wonder Room 2 were late for breakfast today. Forget Foxhils, Champneys, Nirvana or that place owned by the Scottish fella who used to scowl at everyone on Dragon’s Den. ‘The People’ are the people to call if you want a total pampering pleasure.

With the tidiest room competition being awarded on Friday, I’m naturally assuming Room 2 must be odds-on favourites. A high-end spa must be meticulously tidy, so I’m not sure the lair of the Hound of the Baskervilles with its monochrome festering mound or the boys in Room 1 will have much chance. I’ll need to speak to the staff team to gauge the competition from Rooms 3 & 6 upstairs, but the smart money must be on the spa.

After breakfast, we boarded the coach and made the 35-minute drive to Blackgang Chine. With the sun shining brightly in the blue sky, we appeared set for a fabulous day. First stop in the park, due to very popular demand was ‘Extinction’, one of those spinning, twirling upside-down rides that makes your eyeballs pop out. Despite several of the children describing it as ‘looking terrifying’, 25 very brave souls strapped themselves in. Down on the ground, armed with the red exercise book, I commandeered Issy J & Jess to act as judges with me in the ‘best screamy scaredy face’ competition. As the ride cranked up speed and went into loop the loop mode, there were many strong contenders, but the judges opted unanimously for Abi and Izzy B…with a special recognition given to Carly for her ‘1000-yard fixed stare into oblivion’ at the end. As we watched group 2 being spun and inverted, Jess said “It does look absolutely terrifying, but I think I’m going to give it a go this afternoon.”

That’s the true Year 6 IOW spirit on display again. Marvellous.

As group 2 disembarked, we captured a snapshot interview with a couple of the daredevils. “How was it?” Issy asked.

“Oh my goodness, I can’t actually speak” Raima said. The look on Issy’s face at this point was priceless. “We must be hearing voices Issy” I said with a smile.

Anabella followed, eyes wide and bulging. She was clearly totally discombobulated as she said “My legs feel like jelly…I think they’re broken”

Issy’s priceless look was back on her face. “Technically, I don’t think jelly can be broken” Jess interjected. We then discussed the correct technical term for the ‘forcing destructively apart of jelly’ and agreed this would need to be Googled later today…or we’d ask Mary Berry if she happened to turn up to be inverted with serious G-force on Extinction.

After Extinction we made base camp on the lawn alongside the dual pirate galleons and the children quickly separated themselves into 2 ‘piratical’ crews (a top word provided by Max T) before launching into a full-on water cannon battle. This was fantastic fun and another precious 15 minutes just watching them loving being children and playing together.

We left the pirate galleon battle in time to walk to the water slides for our 11.30am slot. Each child was provided with 2 ride tokens and we climbed the many wooden stairs to the launch zone at the top. One by one/two by two, they got in the little red rafts and plunged down one of the 3 slides. This was great fun and, after organising all the runners and riders from the top with Miss Hunter, the children insisted we both had a go. Josh quickly volunteered to be in a raft with your truly and we climbed aboard. When you’ve spent the whole year encouraging, helping & challenging children to believe in themselves, those 8 seconds we spent together hurtling down a water slide meant the world to me. We high-fived at the end and Josh said “That was awesome, I loved it.”. So did I…as Miss Hunter clearly did, judging by the screaming she was doing as she came down with Jess.

In the midst of all the incredible fun, smiles and laughter, I did notice a rather striking anomaly to it all. I realised that Blackgang Chine staff are actually part-human/part-Colobus Monkey. There are no working facial muscles there for the park staff in red. This is clearly where Ofsted Inspectors (or those training to be) spend their time when they’re not darkening the doors of schools. I decided I needed to get Mary to stand in front of them and unleash her repertoire of riddles and jokes.

Stop Press: UNBELIEVABLE magic moment of the day:

Clearly, word has spread very quickly around the island that they have a very special school group in town. This may sound like the stuff of movies but yet another military flypast had been organised for us. Just before lunch as we stood on the headland overlooking the ocean and admiring the view, this beauty came tearing across the sky:

A RAF Typhoon Eurofighter

Followed by the absolute best of all…in their world-famous iconic display formation:

Flypasts by The Red Arrows are reserved for royalty, national celebrations, air shows, military events and now, NEW for summer 2024, Holy Family Year 6 residential visits. Simply and sensationally stunning. Memories forever are being made here in the Isle of Wight.

After our picnic lunch we visited the Haunted House, Hall of Mirrors and Snakes and Ladders which were all great fun in their different ways. Plenty of screaming, squealing, screeching & giggling filled the air. We then went back for a second slot on the water slides where ‘The Plughole’ was clearly the most popular slide by far. This is the one with the covered top so is totally in the dark. It is a scientific fact that if you take away the sense of sight, we feel we are travelling much faster so The Plughole was booming out the loudest screams, screeches and squeals…along with the biggest beaming smiles as they flew out of the drainpipe at the end.

I caught up with a few of The Plughole daredevils as they left their rafts. Abi said “It was a really bumpy and crazy ride. I didn’t know what was going to happen next.” Which is pretty much how Rishy Sunak and Erik Ten Hag operate most days of the year.

Martha gave The Plughole a storming “9 out of 10” but this was topped, in her opinion, by the blue slide which, for her, was “a maximum, definitely 10 out of 10”. Very high praise there and I considered suggesting Martha get a job as PR Manager for Blackgang Chine…before realising that she would be unable to apply as her face was covered with a beaming smile. ‘Only Colobus Monkeys and Ofsted Inspectors eligible’ is probably hidden in the small print.

Seeing Alex and Dominik hurtling out of the plughole drainpipe, I managed to grab a word with the former who said “It was dark, but you get air time as it’s much faster than the blue one.” Judging by the width of his smile, he clearly loved it.

In the post-ride zone, I caught up with Evie and asked her for the highlight of the week so far? “Everything, because I’m having such fun with my friends” she replied. I know this trip is not cheap anymore, but these experiences and memories are priceless for your children. Spurred on by Evie’s summary, I decided to grab a word with Sophia H. “How’s your week been so far?” I asked her.

“Amazing!” she replied. I looked at her and waited…but Sophia had literally given me ‘the’ word I was looking to grab. Apparently, only one word is needed to sum up the first 3 days of the trip. Someone ought to tell Donald Trump that the message can be delivered in powerful clarity via only one word. Well done Sophia. As I mooched off, I reflected that if she packed her luggage as sparsely, we wouldn’t have needed to hire a crane to get her suitcase up the stairs on Monday. That is some suitcase…which I’m considering lowering out of the window by a winch when we leave on Friday 😊

Our trip to Blackgang ended with some great photo snaps with the resident dinosaurs followed by the obligatory retail frenzy in the shop. At least, it was for most, who led the handbrake off the wallets. Max T, on the other hand, declared he was “storing up all his money for a shopping spree in Shanklin tomorrow.” He’s obviously got something in mind so I will be intrigued to discover what it is. I may stalk him around the shops like an undercover detective…I’d best get some tips from Sophia L later today.

All manner of souvenirs were purchased. These ranged (as always) from the sublime to the less sublime and included (but not limited to): squishy coloured putty (popular with the spa therapists), 95p packs of Starbursts which the boys assured me is “the bargain of the century” (ahead of the summer holidays, parents of boys please note they are obviously quite easily pleased), a rainbow squishy octopus, various rainbow slinkys, a plastic pterodactyl (this word will probably turn up on the Year 1 phonics screening test this year), dinosaur toys for siblings, necklaces, a stretchy man who can stick to walls and a pink cowboy hat (purchased by Annie Oakley of Addlestone, formerly known as Martha).

It was actually all going very well and I was impressed that, although some of the boys had been drawn in to the sugar-rush fest of the sweets area, none had succumbed to the annual Year 6 boy magnet known as tubes of Toxic Waste. ‘They’ve not spotted it, I can relax’ was the thought in my head…then I spotted none other than two girls clutching a tube each. Toxic Waste in the hands of girls is not a historically significant statistic on a Year 6 residential but, looking on the positive side, I can’t see any way the Toxic Waste will be allowed into the Room 2 Spa.

As happens most years when we visit the IOW theme parks, our coach was the last to leave the car park and we headed back to the hotel for dinner. Choices today were a roast pork dinner or vegetable lasagne. I’m not the world’s biggest lover of pork so I see-sawed quite a bit before ordering. Following a quick discussion with Alfie, I went for the veggie lasagne…as it might have chicken in it. For the record, the lasagne was very tasty, chicken or no chicken 😊

This evening was a very quick turnaround as we needed to leave the hotel by 6.15pm to head to the theatre in Shanklin. When we arrived, we were thrilled to find out we had the front section seats and I was equally thrilled as my special red chair in the foyer was still there…and vacant. Another year avoiding the early onset of tinnitus for me 😊

From the foyer, the show sounded the usual mix of catchy songs, riotous humour and lots of shouting. The packed auditorium of Year 6 children were clearly having a great time in there whilst I typed furiously throughout the 80-minute performance. I had picked up enough to realise the story line was something to do with cowboys so, at the conclusion I approached Hudson to ask him what it was all about. He looked blankly at me. His mouth moved…a bit…but nothing came out for a while then he muttered “I’ve got no clue as I was just concentrating on the songs.” I’m not sure his review would win many awards but it was refreshingly honest. Hudson wouldn't last long in government.

From what I’ve managed to gather from a further half dozen theatre critics, the story line was set in a tumbleweed world in the wild west where the gold had run out and they needed someone to save them and then a hero cowboy rode into town but he turned out to be a bandit trying to steal all the gold…which all sounds remarkably like the USA under the Trump administration…except much less chaotic. The good news is that “by the end the baddie had become good and he stayed good and there was no gold but there was an oil field that they were going to sell to become rich.”

Pick the bones out of that lot if you can. I’m forming the opinion that there may be hope yet for the USA.

Ok, we’re back at the hotel now for pre-bedtime drinks and snacks. What an amazing day we have all enjoyed which I will try to summarise later. For now, I will give you time to start scrolling your way through all the inane ramblings of the day and will be back once the children are settled. Below are a few photos capturing some of the day’s action:


Bye for now…

10.30pm: The Wight Hill Hotel is beginning to settle as the children head off to sleep. This is just as well as I now need to email Mrs Holt's parents to let them know she has lost her waterproof coat...and it doesn't have her name in it. It will probably make the front page of The Oldham Evening Chronicle and the lead story on the BBC Manchester News.  Mrs Holt needs to shop at Stikins or  more often.

Today has been an archetypal Year 6 residential day in the Isle of Wight. Blue skies, sun, fun, theme park rides, scores of memories and Holy Family children setting themselves apart due to their reliability, self-discipline, kindness and inclusivity. The scene in the packed theatre during the half-time interval tonight epitomised all of these things perfectly. Whilst the majority of others behaved in a highly inappropriate manner, our children did what Holy Family children always do. They showed their class and made us all proud...again.

11pm: All quiet here in the lounge at The Wight Hill. The staff are enjoying a few moments of relaxation and reflecting on the wonderful day we have enjoyed together. As always, there have been countless laughs and even more countless incidents of proactive professionalism, compassion, patience and skill. Mrs Holt must have taken around 100,000 photos with her SLR camera...which is only around 10,000 less than Alex managed to take on the I-Pad at Owl & Monkey Haven yesterday.  He was having a field day, snapping away faster than a convention of very hungry crocodiles & alligators; he's captured some great pictures of every creature in the sanctuary.

Tomorrow morning we are heading to Sandown Beach to don wetsuits and go surfing, followed by beach games, the sandcastle competition and shopping in the afternoon. As I'm sure you're also fully aware, tomorrow evening is the much anticipated party night...I expect the Room 2 spa will be very busy after dinner. 

For now, it's time to sign off until the morning. Sending you all lots of love from the whole clan down here in Sandown.

Over and out

The Blog Bloke

Breaking news...I popped into Black Magik before the boys returned earlier to investigate the festering mound. The evidence is growing...