His own private Legoland

23rd May 2014 at 01:00

In one of Britain's more deprived areas the foundations of economic recovery have been laid. Construction workers have moved in to build several hundred new homes on a square of land half the size of a football pitch. Parents speculate on the feasibility of building so many homes in so small an area. "They're going to call it Legoland," says Braydon's dad.

This immediately arouses my suspicions. The Lego from our classroom has been going missing and Braydon is the chief suspect. Where once we had sufficient pieces to build tower blocks, monster trucks and intergalactic spaceships, now we have barely enough bits for a bungalow. This is a problem that local construction workers are determined to avoid.

The news that a housing estate was to be built close to school appeared to offer our children a unique learning opportunity. We could take groups along to see first-hand how a haven for drug and alcohol abuse could be transformed into a place fit for those lucky enough to get a mortgage offer.

Unfortunately, before the demolition men could so much as swing a ball in anger, an operation of military proportions barricaded the entire building site behind giant hoardings, with guards, razor wire, searchlights and machine-gun towers.

But although property may be theft, as 19th-century anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon suggested, the compulsion to build is part of the human condition. Inside each of us is a structural engineer trying to get out. This is especially true of Braydon. His desire to build things is so strong that he will occasionally complete half a page of writing just to earn the privilege.

There is no doubt he stole our class Lego, but what inner creative needs drove him to it? I imagine in some dark corner of his bedroom he is using the bricks to develop an entire town. Houses and offices, roads and bridges, leisure centres and shopping malls are springing up on Braydon's carpet even as we have a class discussion about where his schoolmates' means to build such things went.

Jack voices what everyone else knows: that Braydon hides pieces down his trousers and during lunchtime wanders across the playing field to where the perimeter fence meets his back garden. Then, like a scene from The Great Escape, he shakes his leg till the bricks drop out and kicks them through the holes in the mesh. Braydon refutes this by offering to punch Jack's lights out.

"OK, let's not worry about how it went missing. Let's concentrate on how we can protect what's left. Any suggestions?" I ask.

Braydon puts his hand up. "I could build a Lego fence around the box. And put Lego guards on it. And make some towers for searchlights. And some machine guns."

"Thank you, Braydon," I say, "but when you've done all that I doubt there will be any pieces left to protect."

Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield

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