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Still something about Mary in primary Seven

only when we are all in the midst of the activities of a primary school in December do we really know what "wind-up to Christmas" means. The children are as high as kites, everyone is tired and families are harassed. Somewhere in there are the true messages of Christmas.

The gym hall looked beautiful as everyone worked furiously to have decorations displayed for the Christmas Fayre, so that the families, as well as the pupils, could enjoy seeing them. I think we should have made a bar graph to show how many people noticed.

No Christmas activities start before December 1 in our efforts to keep everyone as calm as possible and so it had been a race to achieve this. Was the Christmas tree as beautiful as it should be? We had a shopping centre nearby with gorgeous trees on show. Quality matters, so it was off to the shops to start again, this time to get colour co-ordinated decorations to add to P7's snowflakes.

The learning support room was transformed into a magical Santa's Grotto for the Fayre. Santa's little helpers did a magnificent job again this year and the Grotto became a special place for stories right up to the holidays. The nursery children's faces were wonderful to see when they first caught sight of this special place.

The Christmas Fayres are over now. Many PTA committee members will have worked tirelessly to raise funds for ICT, which seems to soak up endless amounts of money, or for a host of other things. Our Fayre was very well supported and Santa was a joy. He's even busier than a primary school teacher.

Next came the choir's round of events. The pupils felt like film stars as they stood on the High Street singing Christmas carols for their large audience and then processed through the town as Christmas tree lights were put on for the first time. Singing at Tescos and Scotmid followed, where the children collected donations for Maggie's Centre for cancer patients and their families at Edinburgh's Western General Infirmary.

Then it was all systems go for the Nativity play, Whoops a Daisy Angel. The angel's wings were just slightly off-centre and there was hardly a dry eye in the house. Everyone was poised and waiting to see which little one would wave to a Grandma or do something which would raise a smile.

I will never forget the experience of the first Nativity play I had anything to do with. More families turned out for that than for any other meeting ever held in school. Even today, the very grown-up P7 boys recall which part they played so long ago when they were in the early stages department.

By now I know that the staff cannot work any harder and I am drawn to the phrase "work smarter not harder". With that in mind, a couple of years ago we decided to stop holding the Nativity play in the evenings. Both the adults and children were excited and tired and then faced the next day with parties. Instead the performances are held in the daytime and are just as well attended and everyone can enjoy the next day, too.

After the play, there were still the parties and the P7 evening Ceilidh, the staff night out and the staff's Santa sack.

I am sure that all of these stories will have colleagues nodding as your December will be very similar to all of this. It is simply amazing when it is all written down and reflected upon. Will we change it for next year? Probably not.

Let me leave you with Mary's last words. Last year, some of our pupils travelled to London to perform part of the Christmas story on TV. Excited but tired, they were ready to leave the studios to be driven back to the railway station. There was a minibus and a stretched limo to transport them to King's Cross station. "I should travel in the limo," said a retiring P3 young lady, "I'm Mary."

Sheilah Jackson is head of Queensferry primary, Edinburgh.

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