Swapping the streets for the slopes 2019
    • Started from the bottom now we're here

      date posted: Thursday 24 Jan 2019

      The sun rose sparkling off the mountains after a night of snowfall, but everyone in Chalet Annapurna was stiff, tired and bruised after two days of ski boots. It was very tough getting us all out of the door and up the hill to the ski bus by 9.27am. 

      The morning session involved some parallel practice on the nursery slopes but unfortunately one of our pupils was towed away on a stretcher. Luckily it wasn’t more than a sprained tendon (still painful though) and we were so impressed with their composure and manners when talking to the medical centre and paramedics. Everyone else carried on, happy once we knew they were not badly hurt.  

      Today we made packed lunches and took the cable car up to the top of the mountain: it was minus 21 degrees! Unlike yesterday it was sunny and clear and we were actually above the clouds. We had an amazing view of Mont Blanc, and then swiftly got back in the car to get down again. When we get back to school two pupils will be able to talk about what the early stage of altitude sickness feels like. It was a good thing we had Alejandro the paramedic (and ex-deputy head) with us who was able to supervise the sipping of water and recovery on the way back down. Never let it be said that the BA does things by half! Pod leader Maz and other students were very kind and supportive and we all helped each other get down in good spirits: Team work. Family. 

      For the afternoon session the group took the chair lift up to Diable and skied down most of the mountain practising their new skills. Two days ago they couldn’t stand up - it was so exciting! We tried to post videos but hands and phones freeze really quickly in the snow so they aren’t very good quality. Everyone was buzzing when we got to the bottom. Students all agreed “We never want to leave. This place is amazing”.

      After we got back to the chalet our ski instructors from Ecole du Ski Francais, Fabrice, David (the third, Julien, couldn’t make it but sent his wishes) came to give out the certificates for all new skiers. They said that they work with schools from the UK often but it is very rare to have such a good experience for these reasons: 

      1. BA students are fit and strong

      2. BA students are so polite, always saying thank you, and so appreciative 

      3. BA students are a bit crazy and do funny things!!

      We gave them a thank you card and presents. We hope we can come back here and see them again; what supportive, kind and expert coaches they were, it made the trip for us. 

      The staff decided to reward our wonderful students with a special treat: we booked a local restaurant for dinner. To our surprise, Kevin and Ali our two alumni got up to make a speech on behalf of the students to express their gratitude for the trip and explain how much it meant to them. Not a dry eye in the house!

      We are tired, our shins hurt, our suitcases are full of grubby clothes and we need a bath and 12 hours sleep, but we have never been happier. This was the toughest and most rewarding thing we have ever attempted. Oscar Wilde said  ‘we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars’. Well this week we could touch them.

    • A brave new world

      date posted: Wednesday 23 Jan 2019

      This was the big day, taking the ‘white egg’ (oeuf blanc) bubble car up the mountain. The first few stacked their skis and jumped in, and as the cars sailed over our heads while we waited below, we could see the beaming excited faces of our pupils. The ski instructors looked up, smiled, and told us that they are such nice children to work with; polite and very happy and appreciative. How lovely to hear!

      It was very cold today, snowing with limited visibility and quite tough conditions. At the top of the mountain they were racing through cones practising snow ploughs and turning, using the ‘magic carpet’ travellator to get back up the slope. They just loved it, they felt like real skiers for the first time. 

      After lunch there was white out on the mountain, visibility was poor but the kids happily continued skiing. After 40 mins or so the magic carpet broke down which meant that we had to resort to plan B: splitting into groups of 5 to ski down to a chair lift and take a different route off the mountain. This was hugely challenging! Getting down was tricky but everyone listened, concentrated and just got on with it. The chair lift was a new experience resulting in quite a few students (and pod leaders!) falling off at the end. All students however, embraced the challenge and clearly enjoyed it. Tomorrow we will take a packed lunch with us and stay up on the mountain all day for the full experience. 

      We leave you with a quote from Kevin, who has absolutely charmed everyone he has met here with his positivity, his smile and his willingness to try speaking in French:

              “As an ex BA student I was amazed by the generous, thoughtful and once in a lifetime opportunity offered to me when I was invited on to this skiing trip. A lot of people would be sceptical about doing this, their guard would be up because this environment and activity is out of their comfort zone. The BA has given me the confidence to take new first steps and to adapt to situations that are unfamiliar, challenging and uncomfortable. I am loving it.  

      The French food is really nice and I like how we all eat together (3 courses!) and clean up after ourselves. The ski instructors are so patient, supportive and talented, they have helped me learn a new skill set. My perception of France has completely changed; before when I thought of France I only really thought of the Eiffel Tower. Being here has made me think of the possibility of living in another country”.

    • No-one has had to do push-ups in the snow!

      date posted: Tuesday 22 Jan 2019

      Day 1 of actual skiing!

      We arrived in Les Deux Alpes (via Geneva) after a coach journey through the winding Alps. The kids were overwhelmed, and thought they were in a movie set. After a very long day (3am start) and walks to get their ski boots and poles, we were all exhausted. 

      Ski school started today, it was meant to be at 10am and although we started getting ready at 9, we were still trying to get boots strapped in properly and help pupils walk up the road carrying skis and poles at 10.30. The instructors at Ecole du Ski Francaise (ESF) have been very patient with us :) Everyone went to the baby slopes to start their basic training, and were miffed to see tiny 3 year French kids sweeping past them. They had gentle and fun exercises to do; learning how to put their skis on, how to stand up, how to slow down and stop but it wasn't at all easy - most of the pupils were tired, cold and sore after sliding into the fencing and landing on their bums by the time we went back for lunch and it was hard to get them ready and back out again for the afternoon session.

      Walking in ski boots has proven particularly challenging, it's very awkward and sometimes painful, so we were wondering if they would refuse to go; they didn't. Some were telling us that they felt like would never be able to do it. They were taken up onto the nursery slope and by the time 4.30 came around we had kids whooping and shrieking, one told us that "it's so hard but when you get it right it feels amazing!". That is why we came. 

      We've been posting some pics and videos on our twitter and instagram but it's not easy when your hands are cold or you are on a ski lift! Tomorrow we are all taking the bubble lift to the top of the mountain for some real skiing, and the kids will be writing the blog. 

      We are tired, almost hysterical at times, and have at points wondered if we were completely mad to do this. The kids are totally out of their comfort zone and the usual problems are occurring but at least no-one has had to do any push-ups in the snow!

    • The children who need love the most, will always ask for it in the most unloving of ways

      date posted: Saturday 19 Jan 2019

      The last day before departure involves a lot of running around. For anyone who has ever staffed a school trip, this is not news. The Boxing Academy (as usual) has taken it to the next level though, because to get 17 of our pupils on a plane and to the slopes requires far more than most schools will ever expect to do. In no particular order, these are the things that we have supplied to get this trip off the ground:
      1.     The entire cost of the trip with the school travel company – flights, coach transfers, accommodation, food, skiing lessons and apres-ski activities in the evening.
      2.     17 sets of ski jackets and salopettes, thermal underlayers, gloves, goggles and socks: the full kit for the slopes, all inclusive!
      3.     Supplementary clothing where lacking: some tracksuit bottoms and jumpers, layers for underneath, shoes for travelling, underwear for some pupils and in one case, luggage to put it all in.
      4.     10 passport applications, including the cost of a naturalisation certificate for a ‘Windrush baby’ parent who, while having been granted the right to stay in the UK, had not been issued with a certificate by the Home Office and this was preventing their child receiving a passport.
      5.     Toiletries, including toothbrushes, for a few pupils.
      Our wonderful friends at KitKing and Mountain Warehouse supplied beanie hats and mini-rucksacks, so we are all good to go.
      Our preparation this week has included:
      •       Alpine geography (thank you Mr Pilling)
      •       Basic French lessons, in Maths (thank you Ms Craig)
      •       Reading “Touching the Void” in English (Ms Tristham-Brown, who is coming skiing)
      •       Planning the Art GCSE project using disposable cameras to document their trip (Ms Oakland’s brilliant idea)
      While trying on clothes and discussing the journey to Les Deux Alpes it came apparent that some pupils thought we were flying to France to go to an indoor ski centre: if you could have seen their faces when they realised that they are going to the mountains!
      However this week, as departure got nearer, the pupils’ behaviour deteriorated markedly. Rather than the typical excitement and silliness one might expect (although there was some of that) we have observed creeping negativity. Some pupils have become argumentative; trying to get themselves in trouble so they might be banned from coming. Others have been irritable, sad, or withdrawn.
      When asked why he was so subdued this week, one pupil told me “I don’t expect anything good to happen. It’s like I got used to bad things, and I’m scared that something will go wrong between now and Sunday.” We reassured them, but actually it won’t be real for them until they are on the plane; maybe not until they are on the mountain. Our lovely SENCO did a refresher session on attachment disorders to inform the staff response: address the poor behaviour and then kill them with kindness!
      Bags are packed, disposable cameras at the ready, the coach is picking us up in the early hours of Monday morning for the flight to Geneva. Expect equal parts of excitement, joy and terror. 


    • Swapping the slopes for the streets 2019

      date posted: Monday 14 Jan 2019

      Welcome to the blog for the 2019 Boxing Academy ski trip to Les Deux Alpes in France! 

      We are a week away from departure, and frantically running around trying to get all the last minute planning and packing done. This blog will attempt to document this trip of a lifetime and  

    • First steps

      date posted: Friday 11 Jan 2019

      The Boxing Academy is on tour from 21st - 25th January 2019. We are going skiing in France and will attempt to blog this journey for your entertainment and interest. In this week leading up to departure we will be adding some comments from the pupils about what they are thinking and feeling, but before we start the blog properly there are some thank you shouts we must get out:

      1. To our incredibly generous and kind donor who paid for this trip (and wishes to remain anonymous)! You are a superstar; this means the world to us. Tears of joy have already been cried and we haven’t even got on the plane yet.

      2. To KitKing who donated beanie hats with BA logos on them! They have been our uniform suppliers for years but this was amazingly kind, and we all look like an Olympic team in our matching hats.

      3. To the people who sent money through our Virgin Giving page! It has been used to make sure the kids have everything they need because for disadvantaged children the basics are out of reach.

      4. To Mountain Warehouse who donated small rucksacks! Perfect for the slopes!

      5. To the people who donated their old ski clothes, we thank you - they will come in useful (you can never have enough layers)!

      Why Skiing?

      Why not skiing? There is nothing more alien to inner city London kids than the snow-topped Alps! At the Boxing Academy we believe our duty to provide a good education involves so much more than classroom teaching and exams. It must give children a flavour of the world outside their bubble, a world that they may well find uncomfortable at first. They need to experience the challenges and opportunities for skill-building that are essential in order to grow strong; if they can overcome their own mental barriers they can be successful in the adult world. We take them out of their comfort zone, but with all the wraparound support, love and encouragement that our noisy family of a school provides.

      This trip is about skiing and fun, but there is a serious purpose also: to avoid educational and social isolation, children need to work through their fears and conquer their doubts. If you help disadvantaged children see the world and get understanding of how other people in other countries live, you build resilience and this gives them aspiration, confidence and choices. As the saying goes; “prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child”. Well, this road leads to Les Deux Alpes!