Flown on holiday from the UK this Summer? On your return in Arrivals there were a number of people, quite often in polo shirts, maybe with something round their neck on a lanyard, holding up clipboards with strange names on? What’s that all about?
The one in the picture is Village Camps, but they’re not the only one. Having done my fair share, or more accurately more than my fair share, of standing in Arrivals at different airports and train stations this Summer I can reveal that what it is about is a more advanced version of the Child Catcher from the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.(Pictured below) Unlike the film, where the role was to remove children from the sight of a ruler who could not stand them, our role is to ensnare young people from different corners of the world and deliver them to the delights of English classes, activities and outing to delightful museums like the The Canterbury Tales Visitor Attraction.(When they would much rather all be spending their parents’ heard-earned cash in Abercrombie & Fitch all buying identical clothes.)
On Sundays through July and August teachers and activity staff leave Summer Schools at anything from 2:30 in the morning in fleets of taxis and minibuses to head off to airports and stations with a list of planes and trains to meet and the new students to greet. The list on the left shows the size of the undertaking with six members of staff working just one terminal at just one London airport. The highlighted are the one’s I was in Gatwick to collect and return to the south coast with.
The logistics often mean that the first students collected have to wait around until a large enough posse has been got together to make paying for a taxi or using a minibus worthwhile. The picture shows the luggage of those spending the start of their educational holiday encamped in Heathrow Arrivals. So next time you see people in polo shirts waiting at arrivals with clipboards you know that they’re staff from summer schools there to collect children arriving in the Uk for an educational and cultural delight.
In parenthesis, whilst waiting at Heathrow in the weekend before the games a man from a couple got talking to me at it turned out he had worked at the first summer school run by the organisation I worked for this year. He went on to tell me that they were undercover cops from elsewhere in the UK there to make sure everything was OK for the run-up to the Olympics and talked about how the rota they worked to changed daily. It seems to have gone off all right for them