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In our prospectus we say that we want all children to move through school with confidence, good friendships and happy memories, and much of our curriculum is planned so that this can be achieved. Planning for happy memories is an interesting concept. Some of our best memories come out of things that aren’t really planned at all – they just happen. Conversely, the best planned events don’t always produce the desired outcome. For me the Year 5 trip to Stoke by Nayland comes to mind, but that’s another story. However, in my experience, you’ve got a much better chance of creating happy memories with really good planning and preparation.

The Year 2 sleepover, which took place this Friday, embodies this approach. This annual event has been taking place for quite a few years now and, with Mags at the helm (our Year 3 teacher with over 30 years’ experience as Brown Owl), everything is planned to the finest detail in order to give our children an experience they’ll remember forever.

The sleepover starts when children arrive at school on Friday evening with sleeping bags, pillows and a bag of essential stuff: pyjamas, toothbrush and an oversized cuddly toy. The girls set up camp in the gym, the boys in the hall and Highgate Primary is transformed into a boarding school. Dan sets out his treasure hunt and the children charge around the school and playground looking for the clues that will reveal the title of the bedtime film.

Whilst this is going on, Mags is in the kitchen preparing her legendary spaghetti Bolognese so that everyone can be fed very generous helpings of camp food in preparation for a long night ahead. This is where my bush-craft skills are brought into play, preparing the campfire for Mag’s campfire songs. These haven’t changed much over the years so it was good to hear Baden-Powell’s ‘Ging Gang Gooli’ still alive and kicking.

With everyone happily singing around the fire, the Year 2 teachers, Lorraine and Billie, make the hot chocolate, with far too much spray-on cream and marshmallows, in order to give everyone the sugar hit they need before winding down for bed. Leaving the campfire behind, the children get into their pyjamas, although these days I believe onesies are the preferred sleeping suit of choice. Teeth are brushed and everyone settles down for the film before bedtime.

The plan is for children to get a solid ten hours sleep, but there is scope for deviation here. In my experience four is more normal, with substantially less for the staff as often the last person to go to sleep does so at exactly the same time as the first one wakes up. Peter was definitely feeling the symptoms of sleep deprivation on the next day at breakfast, where once again Mags works her magic in the kitchen with sausages, beans and French toast.

Parents collect children after breakfast, which concludes the sleepover for another year. Sleeping at school is hugely exciting for children and creates a lasting memory. Less so for the staff because, as all the children know, we sleep here every night.

(With thanks to Mags, Billie, Lorraine, Peter, Rose, John and Dan, for going well beyond the call of duty)


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