Out at last!

Yesterday, the Year 7s headed up to London for the day – Vinehall’s first foray far afield post lockdown. On clear roads under bright skies, we made quick progress and arrived at the Museum of London Docklands to be greeted warmly by both the sunshine and the museum’s Learning Coordinator.

The focus of our visit was the museum’s ‘London, Sugar and Slavery’ gallery. This term, the theme for the Year 7s is Equality and Rights and in recent weeks the children have been learning about abolitionism in their Humanities lessons. The museum building itself is part of the story of the slave trade: it was built to store sugar from the plantations in the Caribbean where slaves worked. The children quickly found images in the gallery they recognised from their lessons: the horrifying diagram of the ‘Brookes’ slave ship; pages from the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, a leading figure of the abolitionist movement; and the barbaric instruments used to punish slaves.

Out in the sunshine once more, we hopped on the school minibuses which took us to the southern end of the Isle of Dogs. After a short walk besides the Thames, we made our way through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to the south side of the river (I think some of the children were rather disappointed to discover that the tunnel didn’t have a glass roof). Out of the tunnel, we stopped for a pleasant picnic lunch on a sun-dappled patch of grass besides the Thames.

Replenished, and having admired the architectural efforts of Christopher Wren (the Old Royal Naval College) and Inigo Jones (the Queen’s House), we made our way up the hill to enjoy the view of London from besides the Royal Observatory. The afternoon’s educational emphasis took us back to the Michaelmas Term and the theme of Conflict: besides the Royal Observatory in what is possibly the best spot for a statue in the whole of London, stands James Wolfe, or at least a life-sized likeness of him. It is largely thanks to Wolfe’s efforts at the Battle of Quebec that an effigy of the queen appears on Canadian coins, as hopefully the Year 7s would  be able to tell you.

We bounded back down the hill and made our way into the National Maritime Museum. The highlight of our visit was undoubtedly seeing the coat that Nelson was wearing when he has fatally shot at the Battle of Trafalgar, complete with musket ball hole in the left shoulder. The highlight for me might have actually been when the children all exclaimed, ‘Sir, that’s the painting that you showed us in class!’ – it’s nice when these things come together. It’s even nicer to be out and about again in the sunshine!

Paul Borrows and Dom Britt