Deck the engine room with boughs of holly

As we wind down for Christmas and schools are overrun with nativity play angels and streams of tinsel – and the festive spirit is truly embraced – WorkingSBM delves in to the true spirit of Christmas and shares a light-hearted view from the engine room – exploring Christmas traditions and funding, after-hours staff and diversity

Christmas is coming…

Christmas in a school is a joyous experience. I love Advent, possibly more that the day itself. From December 1 you can feel the excitement and anticipation in the air. We put the Christmas trees up, start Christmas-themed work and displays, organise staff Secret Santa and the end of term staff do (OK, so we organise that in July). There are Christmas concerts and a wonderful nativity play. Amazon starts delivering daily to the school (how else are staff supposed to take delivery of all their Christmas shopping?) and we start preparing for a much-needed break after a long and busy term.

…the goose is getting fat,

Maybe this is just me! It’s hard to resist all the Christmas treats. I can leave most of the chocolate, and my dietary requirements mean I have to pass on the biscuits, but I would follow you a long way for a strawberry cream or a gluten-free mince pie! I always start the new year resolved to cut back and move about more!

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat

Christmas is, of course, an excellent time to raise funds in schools. Our Parent Staff Association (PSA) arrange a Christmas Fayre at the beginning of December and invite all the local crafty folk to buy a table and sell their wares. The variety of secret craft skills in one small community is amazing and it’s fabulous when they all come together in aid of the school, offering unique gift ideas. I can’t help but get involved. In previous years, I’ve done a ‘Let It Go’ karaoke stall – it took me until March to get that song out of my head but the sight of our, usually reserved, AHT singing, with such joy, at the top of her voice was worth it – and, another year, dressed as a fairy to apply glitter tattoos to young and old alike. Before you ask, no, there are no photos!

If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do…

Christmas is a time, in our school, when we remember those staff who are unsung heroes throughout the rest of the year – our band of after-hours workers who are more important to the success of a school than they realise – the cleaners and caretakers. Over this term they’ve swept leaves, unblocked drains, moved pallets of new term deliveries, gritted the ice, fixed blown-off tiles, cleaned classrooms and managed to keep smiling through the constant traipse of mud through the buildings (we don’t close the field unless it becomes a serious quagmire). So, to say ‘Thank you’, all staff and students donate a small amount to buy them each a Christmas gift. Their contribution to the life of our school is enormous and it does not go unnoticed.

…if you haven’t got a ha’penny…

If you’ve converted, the end of the year comes with the accounts return deadline. This always serves to remind me that my balanced budget leaves no room for extras. Someone once told me that the government should provide the ‘bread and butter’ funding and the PSA provide the ‘jam’. This is an excellent metaphor until you realise that there is not a lot you can do with just the jam on its own! I bang on to anyone that will listen that the current system of education funding is not sustainable. With our extensive experience we SBMs, collectively and instinctively, know what needs to happen in order to sort this out. Perhaps 2018 will be the year that someone actually asks us!

…God bless you

I love the Christmas carols, modern songs and rhymes that are all part of the Christmas experience but we must remember in schools that it isn’t just about the traditional idea of Christmas. December includes spiritual days for most religions of the world (as well as the non-religious) and I love that we can all celebrate together in our culturally diverse nation without needing to get bogged down in specific religious imagery (unless we want to, of course).
The end of December is a time of completion, a time to reflect, a time to be thankful and a time to look forward. For most of our young people it is an exciting time for gifts, being with family and great television. It is also a time when we can extend our capacity to love one another to those who are not so fortunate.
I wish you all a very happy, peaceful and restful Christmas holiday.

WorkingSBM has worked as an SBM for 14 years – ‘supporting constant change and running the engine room!’ An active member of the SBM community, you can find her on Twitter @workingsbm2017 or you can read her excellent blog at
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