Giving school a spin again
TES|November 01, 2019
In a bid to improve parental engagement, one Edinburgh school is putting parents in their children’s shoes to experience a typical modern school day – and the results are breathtaking, finds Emma Seith
Emma Seith

Now “ sprint!” shouts PE teacher David Collard, as more than 20 pairs of legs, each belonging to the parent of a pupil, start pumping pedals as fast as they can.

The room is filled with the sound of purring spin-bike wheels, the unmistakable cheesy beats of 1990s Eurodance group Vengaboys, and the occasional motivational cry from Collard.

“Look at the person next to you – are they going faster?

“…Just put your head down and close your eyes – let’s go!

“ …Nobody slow down!

“…If you don’t challenge yourself, you don’t change yourself!”

This is “bring your parent to school day” at Boroughmuir High in Edinburgh. Or as one parent, Leena Patel, quips after the spin class we take part in, “bring your parent to school, take them home in a bag day”.

It is a Thursday and more than 55 parents – about a fifth of this year’s 260-pupil-strong intake – are following the kind of timetable their children follow every day, experiencing six periods of lessons ranging from modern languages, English and geography, to science, home economics and drama. And, yes, PE.

It is a no-holds-barred, full-on, this-is precisely-what-happens-to-your-kids-when they-come-here experience. It encompasses everything from making your way to classes (although we do have some lovely guides to help us) to negotiating the school cafeteria, getting over your inhibitions in drama and baring all in the communal changing rooms.

By the end of the day, my group will have taken part in a mime workshop and created objects using our bodies in “the configuration game” – I will have been the tail of a dragon and the caterpillar track on a 14-person tank.

In science, we manage to burn magnesium to create magnesium oxide without frying our retinas. In geography, we talk about the myriad ways humans use rivers. In personal and social education (PSE), we debate who it would be appropriate to befriend on Facebook.

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