One of the most important jobs I think any teacher can do is to be an examiner. We spend years preparing our students for a few hours of leak performance in the exam hall and, in my opinion, not enough colleagues are involved in marking. It does put a lot of pressure on an already busy workload and the pay is, frankly, pitiful. However, it does offer some excellent professional development and the money is useful. For me, it goes to pay for my travelling.
This year I was marking for about 8 weeks solid and we decided that it would be good to go away for a weekend for a break towards the end of June. Due to other commitments, we couldn’t leave London until about 2pm on the Saturday so needed somewhere close by.
I had read about the Hilton Syon Park – a former Waldorf Astoria that had been down graded. When I suggested going to a hotel inside the M25, the first reaction was that I was crazy; on looking at the pictures it was a yes.
I booked a package which included champagne in the room on arrival, a spa treatment each, dinner, bed and breakfast. As a Diamond Hilton Hhonors member I would have got free breakfast anyway, but I did get an upgrade to a suite confirmed before arrival.
We set off in the car and were there 40 minutes later; turning off the road and into the park where the hotel sits next to a country house and a garden centre is a strange feeling, but very welcome. You really forget you’re in London.
We had a long wait at check-in but eventually got our key and went up to the room. It was ridiculous!
The size of 4 standard rooms, it had a dining table, 2 lounge areas, a huge bed, a bathroom with shower and free standing bath and a guest toilet.
We went to the spa for a swim and then had our massages which were very good. Back in the room I took advantage of the TV in the bathroom to watch the end of a Euro16 game whilst drinking champagne in the tub!
Dinner in the Marco Pierre White restaurant was very good. It was busy but the service was good. I can’t remember what we ate, but it was tasty. As we were on a package we didn’t have to worry about the price; some things like the steak attracted a supplement.
Breakfast was a grand buffet affair with some things cooked to order. The staff were not as good as at dinner and it was a little wait until we got any orange juice.
Back to the pool, we ended up in kids hour. They had 2 a day, the second being in the evening and they were very good at enforcing it. We then took a stroll around the magnificent grounds of Syon Park before checking out.
It was a very indulgent stay so close to home, but really felt like a break away. I would certainly go back, but would book into a room in a lower category knowing that we would be upgraded. Whilst we enjoyed the suite, having 14 seats, a massive dining table, 2 seating areas and 3 flat screen TVs was a little unnecessary.
Inspired by our micro-break, we are doing another one in a couple of weeks time when I am doing another trip. My position flights see me arriving back into Heathrow in the evening and leaving again the following morning. Rather than spending time retracing my steps, I’m staying at the Sofitel. Yes, it’s extravagant, but it’s my reward to myself for marking all those exam papers!