After presenting the virtual ceremony last year, Olympic medallist Katharine Merry is back and looking forward to hosting the ‘real thing’ as the 2022 School Travel Awards lunch and ceremony returns as an in-person event on 25th May in London. Here Katharine chats to us about her school trip memories and why she’s looking forward to the 2022 ceremony.
We’re thrilled to have you back as our Awards host. How are you feeling about hosting in person this year?
Those are the key words – ‘in person’. Everybody’s been desperate to get back into rooms with people and to have celebrations. You can’t beat being back in a room with really nice people who make a difference. Meeting and interacting with the Award winners and those that have been nominated for the Awards this year is something I’m most looking forward to. I love working in a room with a nice celebratory vibe.
What inspired you to get involved with the Awards?
I think people expect schools to do a lot without realising all the brilliant people who should be getting the recognition – the schools and teachers who make things happen and do all these great things that enrich children’s lives. This is what needs to be celebrated.
Kids are in a very delicate situation, in terms of their mental health and wellbeing, having lost so much interaction over the past couple of years. There’s a level of repair to fill that gap for those children, especially those who don’t necessarily thrive massively in the classroom. This is their outlet, this is what they enjoy, and as it becomes part of the school programme, it raises their enthusiasm for learning.
To what extent did school trips shape the person you are today?
I remember mine vividly and with great fondness. With my middle school, we used to go to north Wales for three or four days and it was absolutely brilliant. I got to spend time with my friends, as well as kids who I didn’t usually spend much time with.
In a different environment you see different sides to people and it built many different skills that are vital for development in childhood and throughout school life. I remember kids coming out of their shell and taking all that confidence back into the classroom – and not surprisingly they start picking up and flying. It’s massively important.
As a parent, how have your own children benefited from school trips and residentials?
My kids are 11 and 8 and very ‘outdoorsy’ – they have sport and physical activity coming out of them left, right and centre! But what I do like, when they go out and about on trips and do things differently, is that they start talking about different skills when they come back. I’ve found the creative and observation side of trips and being in a different environment has been really important to them.
And, of course, new friendships, as well. That’s because they’ve been somewhere and the teachers have been great and made them mix with different kids and they’re coming back with a whole new look at things. It’s absolutely brilliant – it’s opening their eyes to different things.
What can those who have been shortlisted for an Award look forward to on the day?
A lot of praise, quite rightly, and a lot of enthusiasm from us. There will be a lot excitement and back-slapping because everybody who plays their part really does deserve that recognition and needs to feel very proud of themselves. We will be enthusing about the schools and the teachers as well as all the people who have and are continuing to make a difference.The event is going to be a really fun afternoon celebrating those people.
All are deserving and we’ll make sure that everybody realises that. Plus, it’s at the Royal Lancaster which is really nice, so it’s not just going to be ‘in person’, it’s going to be in person in a really great environment.
How would you encourage people to attend and experience the Awards event for themselves?
Who wouldn’t want to come along to a nice event – it’s a no brainer to me. Definitely come along and join us. If you’re still undecided as to whether to join us in May, I promise you will not regret a fun afternoon and you’ll leave inspired by what you see and hear. We’re going to have a really good time and celebrate those who are deserving.
The 2022 Awards Lunch and Ceremony takes place on Wednesday 25th May at the five-star Royal Lancaster Hotel, London.
For event and ticket information, visit schooltravelorganiser.com/tickets