When Dominic Wood was at primary school, there was a fad for collecting keyrings. At one point, sitting in class, it suddenly dawned on him that jangling all his keyrings would be a good way to wind up the teacher, and that he would then be asked to take them all off.
“So I took them off really slowly, one by one – you know when you have to wind each one round,” Wood says.
“I could have just unclipped the whole thing. But you get a sense of achievement when you push the boundaries.”
Wood, 38, is better known as Dom, half of children’s television presenting duo Dick and Dom. In shows such as Dick and Dom in da Bungalow, they specialise in the kinds of mischief-making easily aped by primary pupils.
If you know you'll get a reaction, it's even more fun
In fact, such is the appeal of this type of mild naughtiness that a new TES survey of around 2,500 primary pupils has found that most of the experiences that the under-11s want to have at school tend to involve a gentle pushing at boundaries. For example, pupils want to spin in a teacher’s chair, call a male teacher “Miss” or have a water fight.
Wood and Richard McCourt – aka Dick – spoke to TES about the importance of these experiences. “When you get to a certain age – usually halfway through primary school – it’s natural to test boundaries,” Wood says. “And, when you realise you’ll get a reaction, it’s even more fun.” One of Dick and Dom’s bestknown recurring jokes involves challenging one another to say the word “bogies” in a public place. They take turns saying the word at increasing volume, until one admits defeat.
“You learn the difference between mischief and bad behaviour,” says McCourt. “Smashing windows is bad, but having a water fight is good. Our motto is: you can be naughty but nice. Like cream cakes.”
Pick the right teacher
Of course, he adds, even the best-intentioned mischief will not necessarily meet with favour in the classroom. “There are different types of teachers,” McCourt says. “Some don’t like any behaviour like that: keep your head down. Some take a cheeky look and run with it – make it fun for everyone. You’ve got to have fun when learning. That’s so important.”
At Tapton School in Sheffield, McCourt had a GCSE geography teacher who fell into the latter category. “Weirdly, it showed in my grades,” the 39-year-old says. “It made me more relaxed, and I learned more. I got a B.”
But, he and Wood add, children planning mischief should remember that even the most game-for-a-laugh teacher can suddenly stop seeing the fun. “Teachers are only human,” says Wood. “If they’re having a bad day, or haven’t slept well, and someone comes in and has a bit of cheeky banter, that won’t go down well. They’ll throw you out of class.
“Make sure you don’t upset anyone doing it – that’s all I say. Don’t upset anyone, and don’t disrupt the class, whatever you do.”
“Yes,” says McCourt, offering up another motto of mischief-making. “Bring light to your class, but don’t bring anger. Make people laugh.”
Read the 100 things you should have done at school before the age of 11 – as chosen by primary pupils