Coaching & Leadership Development
December 11, 2017

How to make Christmas special at your School

How to make Christmas special at your School

This blog comes from Headteacher of Parklands Primary School and Passionate School Well-being advocate, Chris Dyson (@ChrisDysonHT)


I am the proud Headteacher of Parklands Primary School. We are situated in the middle of one of Europe’s largest council estates. We are the most deprived Primary school in Leeds with 82% Pupil Premium Children ….. but what does that mean?


No hope? No aspirations? Poor exam results? A poor OFSTED report? On the contrary, 82% Pupil Premium means we have to get it right for these children; we have to inspire, we have to sell the dream, we have to love, respect and make sure every child is valued, listened to and believed in… and at Parklands we do just this.


Our exam results sees us as the most successful school bar none in Maths, with the school in the Top 1% (we now have visitors coming from all over the country to see how we gained 65% at Greater Depth) and Top 5% in Reading and Writing. October also saw a visit from Ofsted, a visit which we loved every second of and a visit which rewarded every child and member of staff with an OUTSTANDING grade.


I believe this is a large part down to our whole school focus on well-being, something that for us is a year-long priority, but at Christmas, we like to go that extra mile to make children, staff, parents and the community smile. So how do we make Christmas special at our school?


For starters, any member of staff who needed to see their child/grandchild in their school nativity had the golden ticket to attend and to pop off for the show. Any staff wanting an extra shopping day were encouraged to use their day in lieu. I believe we all have to learn from Scrouge and his treatment of Bob Cratchit!


As for the pupils, well it broke my heart 3 years ago when I found out only a very small percentage of our wonderful children got to visit a Christmas grotto. I believe its every child’s right to see the great man himself, so we became the first school ever to open up school on Xmas Eve, thus bringing the grotto to the children.



What started 3 years ago has become a community event that sees nearly a 1000 presents given and a 1000 Xmas lunches served. The presents the children receive are of a very high quality as businesses really get into the spirit by donating around £15,000 worth. The children are welcomed by a team of real life Reindeer’s as they make there way into the most special Xmas environment in the world.



Volunteers run a disco to dance and sing to the greatest Xmas tunes, before the children negotiate the bouncy castle before eating lunch and then seeing SANTA! The amount of wellbeing it gives to me and the staff on Christmas Day when we reflect is wellbeing at its best.


In addition this year, businesses have donated enough Xmas lunch food to send home 140 hampers to our families… so once the party stops; the families still have the joys of Christmas in their fridges and on their shelves. This is the end of our Christmas experience, but the fun and excitement starts way before this…



On December 1st, we start by reflecting and we start with traditional carols with the story of ‘advent’ – led beautifully by the Reverend Christine. This really shows that Christmas is all about giving and the birth of Jesus.


December the 2nd then sees around 150 parents come into school to ‘Decorate the Tree’. This sees the children singing with all their energy and might to create the spirit of Christmas as we aim to get the spirit to light the tree. TA’s, children, teachers, office staff, parents all involve themselves as after four songs the lights miraculously come on starting our Christmas fun. This year, we were so proud to have Charlotte and Harrison (Y1) switching on the lights.


We have full tear-jerking Christmas shows from EY’s to Y6 which again really involves the community as we see around 200 parents per show. The children feel empowered as they showcase their talents.

At Parklands, we adore singing and as a result, we send our choir singing in the community, sharing that bit of #ParklandsMagic with everyone. We sing for the community builders, the Old People’s Homes and around the local shops. Again, it makes our school feel Christmassy and special and raises the profile of the school which attracts more investment from businesses. By simply singing a few happy feel-good songs; the housing group (Keepmoat) did a £5000 makeover of our playground.


Of course, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas either without the traditional Christmas jumper day…. well except at Parklands we have the Xmas Jumper fortnight! Why pay money for a jumper and wear it only once? The children have looked Christmas-tastic throughout December, and for those without one – we found them one. Everyday is Xmas!


As well as having every child having the right to see Santa, I also feel very strongly that every child should see a Panto at Xmas. However, getting 360 children out of school on the same day is a challenge, so I bring the Panto to Parklands. This year, we welcomed a performance of Sleeping Beauty.


The children were simply the best audience you could ever hope to see as they cheered, jeered, danced and sang along to every word of every song. It brings tears to your eyes seeing their happiness… and in all seriousness; when you have happy children, you have happy staff…. and when you have happy staff with happy children, you have really happy and supportive parents.



When all this goes into the mix – you create a learning environment where behaviour is outstanding, risks can be taken and results can be seen all across the land. It’s not all play, play, play here at the #FunPalace; it is worth noting that progress this term in ALL 15 classes saw progress above 4 points which shows accelerated learning (3 points is expected progress).


I believe this just goes to show that the carrot works better than the stick – then it can be also used for the snowman’s nose! It also shows that having 82% Pupil Premium Children is no barrier to learning, as we are the single highest performing school in the country in Maths (and the Top 5% in Reading and Writing). It really is amazing how much impact smiles and love can have.


So this was a flavour of Christmas 2017 at Parklands…. roll on 2018 for another remarkable year!



What Teachers Need – Love and Smiles


“If teachers are treated as the brilliant individuals and life changers that they are, success must be achieved without having to be a dictator – but the good news is that it can be achieved through smiles and love.”

Click below to read the other ways in which Chris supports his staff’s well-being…

Read more


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