Father's day

3rd December 2004 at 00:00
Good classroom decor cannot be rushed, says Michael Cook

I believe in educational standards. Not in the euphemistic sense, of compulsory caning and shoving 11-plus failures up chimneys, but simply in the way I'm filled with pride when Alfie spouts proper schoolboy facts about gorillas, Guy Fawkes or the capital of Guyana. (No, me neither.) So when, from the top of my ladder, I hear Mrs Lewis spinning Class 3 into a frenzy of infant excitement over the intricacies of English grammar, I am pleased I'm engaged in my own example of old-fashioned craft. Yes, I think we all agree there is a right way and a wrong way to make a Christmas party pack of crepe paper resemble the teeming jungle biomass. First, you must use crinkly scissors. Fashioning the results of billions of years of evolution with straight cuts is just sloppy. Second, a three-quarter twist in each strip of paper is essential to give the required organic look. A full twist appears over-manufactured; a half twist invariably unravels.

Third, to fully resemble the forest spectrum, the strands of lifelike creeper that result should be attached to the ceiling in the specific ratio of five dark green, five light green, two yellow. Admittedly, it's not a formula for speed; it's taken more than an hour so far and I'm not a quarter of the way across. Quality takes time.

But not everyone values excellence over timeliness. Speaking of which, there's an intruder on what I have come to consider my patch. Another helper. A mum (not even from our class!) has finished her tasks next door and volunteers her services.

Now you would think my several weeks-long experience of parent-helping in Class 3 would put me in a position of some authority. I not only have prior possession of the stepladder, I know where Mrs Lewis keeps her emergency glue. But despite this, and my more than clear instructions, I'm afraid my new colleague is what a crueller man than I might call haphazard.

No twists. Green, red and grey crepe paper. Rip, glue. Rush, rush. Bish, bosh. We're finished before playtime.

Mrs Lewis proclaims our display "really effective". Alfie reckons it's "pretty good". Unhelpfully, neither expresses a preference for either half of the room. You'd think they couldn't tell the difference. So, naturally, I feel obliged to point out my three-quarter twists to any and every six-year-old who'll listen. I have my standards.

Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now