Music, queues, Mickey Mouse. Schools should be like Disneyland, says Michael Cook
We're back in school after four days at Disneyland Paris. No, I have not been neglecting my obligations as a parent-helper. Nor could I claim that riding the giant tea cups was a valid educational experience. But there are things I have learned that might be useful in the infants.
First, there is something immediately appealing to children about Disney's costumed characters which perhaps the teaching profession could exploit.
Yes, we all know that what stands before us is just a grumpy Frenchman in a rubber mask, but a glimpse of a Disneyland "cast member" is always enough to create a stampede of autograph hunters. All I am suggesting is that teachers who want to grab the class's attention during a particularly dry maths topic might consider wearing full Donald Duck or Snow White regalia.
Even a pair of Mickey Mouse ears might enliven a spelling test.
Next, music. Piped music. Disneyland is not big on the sound of silence.
Now, in some ways, Miss Cox has already pre-empted this idea in Class 6.
She plays the theme from Mission Impossible at the end of the morning to get the children to tidy up. But Disney takes it much further. Everything has its soundtrack. In late October, when we were there, a particular "favourite" was the "Halloween Song" (Lyrics: "It's Halloween, it's Halloween, it's Halloween, It's Halloween, It's Halloween, It's Disney's Halloween"), played in gothic rock style on a continuous loop from dawn until dusk, and then reverberating through my subconscious all night. Could school not do something similar? "It's the literacy hour, the literacy hour, the literacy hour, Ernehale infants literacy hour"I Then there is the epitome of the Disneyland experience: queuing. People flock from all four corners of Europe to moan about the queues at Disneyland. Surely that excitement could be recreated at school. I don't just mean lining up for assembly, I mean reallocating the whole of playtime, encouraging huge lines of children to snake across the playground, wrapping around themselves so no one can see how far they've still got to go. I'm sure the caretakers of Britain could knock up some signs: "Geography is only 45 minutes from this point". If they have to queue for it, they're bound to love it.
Finally, whatever your views on the desirability of exporting American cultural norms and values to the unsullied minds of Euro-tots, there is one area where Disney reigns supreme: the Mouse sure knows how to clean a toilet. If we could only get the infants to keep the Class 6 loos as shiny as a Disney loo, every day would feel like a holiday.
Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent-helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend