Our school mission to NYC

Eddie Aylett

Eddie Aylett is one of the assistant principals at Bower Park Academy in Romford, Essex. He received his BA Honours in Physical Education with QTS from Greenwich University, London in 2000. He has taught in Secondary Education in the London Borough of Havering and has also taught overseas in The Netherlands. In addition to teaching Physical Education, Drama and Science, Eddie is also the academies International School coordinator and global leader.

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Website: www.bowerpark.co.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We recently returned from our second Performing Arts tour of New York City. The academy and I believe in a global vision that supports the curriculum, and New York didn't disappoint! Many colleagues and 'teacher friends' from other schools often ask: “Why do you want to take your pupils there? That's a long way for a short time? Performing Arts?”

The answer is simple! I believe that students will exceed in their studies with opportunities offered outside the classroom. Not only that, but I feel the need to humanise teachers is a must for rapport and trust! My belief in this enables our Performing Arts department to achieve exceptional rates of progress at both Key Stages.

Finding the right tour company is imperative ,and you will need to set time aside for this. Compare quotes, attractions, accommodation (a must) and, of course, price. You need to select a company that suits yours - and your students - needs and budget.

For three students who had never flown, or travelled outside of the UK before, this was truly life-changing, something both staff members are extremely proud of. This does, however, cause anxiety for parents and their children!

From the outset, with that first letter, we had to be clear with the trip purpose and cost. Parents need to be well informed of choices and decisions about the trip, and communication is key for the trip to work! Being clear in your approach and goals is extremely important. Sharing these with the pupils and parents are key for success, that is why we offer assembly slots and a parent launch meeting.

Spending five days in the Big Apple to learn stage combat, musical theatre and improvisation skills would be hard enough with 22 students, but we wanted a broad and balanced programme. These workshops bring out the best in our students, and that is important. You need activities that will stimulate them if tired on an intense trip, but they must also learn skills that they can use when back at school. I believe that this is very important for students and parents - the trip must have worth!

We wanted to allow our students a tour that also took in some of New York’s amazing sights and experiences, such as:

  • Empire State
  • Central Park
  • Central Station
  • NY Library
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Times Square
  • National September 11 Memorial & Museum

Some of the attractions are quite emotional, and allow the students to learn about History, Geography and topics such as terrorism. They handled themselves maturely and were a credit to BPA.

Many staff have asked, “Why is it only a Performing Arts trip”, which often boils my blood! A trip can be anything you want it to be, and although the foundations for our trip were the arts, having a broad and balanced programme is essential. During my time at university, our aim was to have a broad and balanced curriculum that offers a spiritual, morale, social and cultural experience. That's not changed, and all of the above can be achieved in a well-planned and well thought-out trip!

Staff selection is key for this to work too. You collectively need a shared passion, cohesive approach and an understanding of roles, responsibilities both before departure and during the trip. Having the responsibility for students can be daunting and you need a team to settle all nerves.

Making the programme special - I feel it is important to offer something different from the regular sights and attractions, and go off the beaten track. It is important to research potential visits and include them where possible in your risk assessment. This year we even managed to visit a Halloween Dog parade in East village, which was something amazing and different to see - the students couldn't believe their eyes.

The highlight for the kids was a Broadway show starring Matthew Morrison from Glee. During the day the students took part in a workshop with a cast member, where they learnt the song and dance that we saw later that night - on Broadway! Truly amazing and emotional.

We even managed to satisfy the aspect of aiming higher and looking at careers while on tour. The cast member was able to answer questions about the performing arts industry and life as an actor. The students were also able to meet some members of the cast after the show, collecting autographs in the process.

Communicating the success of the trip is exceptionally easy with the use of social media. The communication between parents is instant, and it allows parents at home to share in their children's experience. Regular updates, photos and stories really make parents feel at ease. Long gone are the days of the expensive phone call home. It's so easy to share experiences; we just need experiences to share!

Every trip that runs at Bower Park Academy also hijacks the ‘Bing Bong’ speaker system the week after. For any hi di hi, or Grease fans, this means that students take to the tannoy and share their experiences across the school during form time! We also create a video that is shown in order to entice the students for the next trip.

The experiences of education outside of the classroom are invaluable and teach independence, independent learning, allow calculated risk and life skills, something every person requires. At our school we pride ourself on preparing students to have a growth mindset and opportunities such as these only add to the ethos. Our vision is that all students will travel on a school trip and experience education across the globe. I truly believe this and believe that trips such as this make a huge difference to their future lives. We’re keen to return to New York in 2016, hopefully combining other departments from the curriculum. It just need the motivation and passion from staff to give up some of their free time and throw themselves into the world outside the classroom

Have you taken any pupils to NYC? Share your experiences below.

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