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crossing borders visit to Belgium - 2019

In March 2019 8 students from Post 16, and 5 staff departed from Spring Common Academy. We were highly excited (even though it was early in the morning) to start our cultural enrichment journey to Belgium. For some learners this was their first experience of travelling to another country and the first time they had been abroad without parents/family. This collaborative project with a Belgian mainstream school is designed to prepare our young people for adulthood, by providing extensive opportunities to develop functional skills, independence, personalised learning and thinking skills, through social inclusion and exploration of the wider world.

Travel training skills started with planning the journey and then undertaking the 4 train journeys, which included Eurostar across Europe to reach the town of Sint Niklaas. The programme of activities was intense to maximize the opportunities and promote active and experiential learning throughout. It included a ‘Speed greeting, meeting and eating’ social event to get to know our hosts on the first evening. We then booked into our hotel.

The next day, our hosts had organised a City Rally around St Niklaas - this was a type of treasure hunt, incorporating sightseeing, games, photograph challenges, map reading and a tour of their school. This was followed by a very inclusive Sports afternoon, including Basketball, Football, Crazy golf around the school corridors, and Dance. A fun and busy day for everyone. Dinner in the Amadeus Rib restaurant was a huge success too!

On Thursday we visited the largest market in Belgium (accompanied by lots of sunshine this year) and our Learners developed their Life Skills and financial capabilities as they chose and bought desserts for a shared buffet lunch and gifts - these of course, included lots of chocolate! The collaborative Creative Arts project held in the Monastery part of the school in the afternoon was great fun. We tried different workshops culminating in the creation of GB and Belgian flags. International and spontaneous dancing also erupted with many of our students stealing the show! The evening dinner at a world buffet style restaurant enabled our students to try many new foods including lobster, oysters, frogs legs, kangaroo steak and sushi to name a few!!

Friday was another early start - we were all at the train station by 8.30am to go to Antwerp with our Belgian friends for a guided tour, a visit to the cathedral to view the Reuben’s paintings and the opportunity to explore the cultural heritage of the beautiful city of Antwerp. This was followed by an evening of bowling and kebabs with our Belgian friends. On our final day we went by train and tram to Ghent for sightseeing and shopping, before sadly saying goodbye to our new friends and colleagues in Belgium.

We arrived home safe and sound on Saturday evening. We were all a little exhausted (after a colossal 22 miles walked throughout the 4 days1) but very happy with all the positive outcomes and experiences from the trip. Well done to students Thomas, Joshua, Alex, Shania, Kaitlyn, Jessica, Katie and Alex for being such great ambassadors for our School and thank you to the staff-Judith, Sarah, Andy, Tracy and Kim for dedicating your time and energy to support this extra-curricular trip.