Taith funding is available for primary schools to offer children the opportunity to travel abroad – often for the first time. Oak Field Primary School in Barry took 30 Year 5 and 6 pupils to Murcia in Spain for a week-long mobility.
Teacher Kelly Bladon and 11-year-old Year 6 pupils Keala, Chloe and Harrison spoke about what one of the children described as a “life-changing experience”.
“A lot of our children haven’t left Wales before,” said Mrs Bladon, who applied for Taith funding. “This trip was about making sure the pupils have got aspirations for life, because how can you aspire to something that you’ve never experienced?
“They got to see that there’s more out there and we have hopefully instilled the message that: ‘if I want to travel the world, then I need to get a good job to be able to afford these things. And wow, there’s more to the world than just Barry’.”
As so many of the children had never been abroad before there was a lot of nerves and apprehension getting on an aeroplane for the first time.
Eleven-year-old Harrison said: “I felt scared getting on the plane and flying but then I started reading the magazine and I didn’t know we were in the air. I was excited and a bit nervous about being away from my family and going abroad for a whole week, but I got used to it on the second day.
“When I came back, I thought I could do anything before collapsing with tiredness. It’s a life-changing experience. If you haven’t been on a plane before, just go. And if you’re scared read the magazine. My favourite parts of the trip were the swimming pool and making new friends. I have lots of stories to tell people.”
Keala, also 11, said: “It was scary because I wasn’t with my parents, but I felt excited just to be there. I’ve been on an aeroplane before, but my friend who was sitting next to me was crying on my arm because she had never been on a plane before. My favourite part was horse riding.”
Oak Field partnered with a school in Spain where they spent 3 days, and the Spanish children taking part in the exchange stayed with the group for a series of fun team and confidence building activities.
“Our children were immersed with the Spanish children the whole time,” said Mrs Bladon. “At the school they used VR headsets, did some Lego spike coding, cooking, lots of sports and team building exercises. We went into Murcia one night and they did a landmark hunt. They had a map and they had to use the Spanish they’ve been learning in questions and directions. We’ve been learning Spanish as our cluster language since September, so it was nice to fit all of that together.
“We went to the beach one day and they did windsurfing, paddleboarding and kayaking, and then there was a day we went to an adventure place, and they did zip wire, horse riding, archery and human foosball.
“The children spent a lot of time together so by the time we were leaving, there were lots of tears, lots of exchanging of numbers. The Spanish children and teachers are coming over to us in September.”
Pupil Chloe said of her experience: “My favourite thing was the human foosball. Spanish children are so good at football. You get off the plane and you feel this heat, and the oranges and apples are so big.”
The impact of this experience on the children has been plain to see for teachers and parents since the mobility took place. Mrs Bladon said: “Taking children abroad for the first time ever is massive and they just didn’t stop smiling. Some of our very quiet children who don’t usually engage in anything big, there’s videos and photos of them with massive smiles on their faces. We had a WhatsApp group with all the parents and I was sending photos daily and they were saying that they’d never seen their child smile in that way.
“The messages of “thanks” haven’t stopped coming. Parents telling us that their child hasn’t stopped talking about it and saying: ‘Thank you so much for giving them the opportunity to have this; I’d have never been able to afford to provide this for my child.’
“Some of the Year Five children who came on the mobility will be in Year Six next year and get the opportunity to come to Finland thanks to Taith funding. To think by the age of 11 some of these children will have been to 2 countries… That’s amazing, isn’t it?”