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Book of dreams

Matthew carefully drew a pair of hands; one was normal, the other twisted and swollen. They were his mum's hands. One of his hopes for the new millennium is that a cure for arthritis will be found. Rebecca wrote of her hope that "people will be more concerned about the world around them in the future. I hope I can make a difference".

The hopes and dreams of both these children, along with those of every child who was on our school roll on January 1, can be found in the hardback book that has pride of place in our junior school. It is a beautiful book, full of vision, ideals and hope.

This time last year, as RE co-ordinator, I was searching for a way to mark not the end of the old millennium, but the beginning of the new. After all, the story of Jesus and the hope it gave the world began two millennia ago so now it seemed right to focus on the future. And who better to ask about hope for the future than the children who will shape it?

With the headteacher's approval, I designed two A4 pages, both entitled "Hope for the world in a new millennium". One page had a large central space and was to be distributed to the children in Years 5 and 6. The other contained three overlapping boxes. I did not want the younger children to be daunted by a large space and, by having boxes already in place, they had "picture frames" ready for any illustrations they wanted.

The staff had already decided to devote the first half-week back in school after Christmas to the millennium and so once the sheets had been printed and distributed work could begin. All 12 classes spent time looking back over the last millennium, debating the best and worst changes in lifestylesand the technological advances of the past 1,000 years. They were fascinated by snippets of information from their teachers' early lives - even though some of our staff are only in their 20s!

Having looked back we were now ready to look forward. What did they want to see changing in the future, what scientific advances, what did they want put right? The answers were thoughtful, funny and idealistic, ranging from the optimistic "I hope Manchester United win all the time", to "I hope all the world will get clothes so that they will get warm but if they get hot they don't have to". More poignantly, several wrote along these lines: "My hope for the world is to keep parents together."

Once the carefully written and colourfully illustrated pages were collected together we added staff lists, the school prayer, a foreword by the chair of governors and a hand-drawn frontispiece, and took the whole bundle to a craft binder in Dorchester. Working in an out-building at the rear of his house, this man bound our pages into a hardback book with a blue cover and gold lettering (our school colours) and, within a week we had a wonderful volume that recorded the hopes and dreams of all our pupils for the new millennium.

It is a beautiful book, both in looks and content, and is proving to be a great resource for assemblies as well. The whole project cost well under pound;100, took very little of anyone's time and our children love knowing that they have their work and names in a "proper book" that will, we hope, still be there when their grandchildren arrive for their first day at school.

Vivien Sloan teaches at Wyke Regis CE junior school, Weymouth, Dorset

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