Back to School in September

Jan Millward shares her ideas and top tips for getting back to school and remembering everything about your residents’ school days this September, with a fun re-enactment of the school day.

There will be a collective sigh of relief from parents and pupils alike when students return to school this month.

I can remember the shopping for new uniform and my mum sewing labels in everything, even my PE knickers! It may be a long time since your residents went to school, but they will often have clear memories of those days, so it makes for a great activities theme this month.

School Days

Spend a whole day as if you were at school. The residents will love the change to routine and find it fun to remember how it all used to be. You could do all these activities in one day, but you can also spread it out and theme the whole week.


Find out from your life biographies which schools your residents went to and print off pictures of their schools from Google or maps. If families have any photographs of them in school, see if they will bring or send them in. Ask staff to do the same and see if you can recognise each other!


If you can, find an old hand bell and ring it to start the day. Ask your residents to choose some old school hymns, such as ‘All Things Bright And Beautiful’ or ‘Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven’, and sing one or two together. Talk about head girls and boys – you could appoint some of your residents for the day!


Follow on from assembly into a first class of the day. You could start by taking the register, and then sit in a circle for reminiscence. Get together a few items to inspire school memories. Most are relatively easy to find, and include chalk and a slate, skipping rope, marbles, plimsoles, a ruler and some pencils. Also discuss the poems that they learned, the times tables, spelling tests and the books they read. You could start your own nature table and bring in interesting leaves and pebbles that you have found outdoors. Ask them about how much homework they had and how good they were at doing it. Your residents will have lots of memories once you spark them off. Ask if anyone was a prefect or a lunch monitor. Did anyone ever get the cane or the slipper, or did they have to write lines?


After your reminiscing session, have a break. Make a tuck shop on a trolley and let them choose some old-fashioned sweets or penny tea cakes – give them simple striped paper bags to put their sweets in.


Go outside for this, if it’s warm enough. Now is the time to have a go at skipping and recite the old rhymes. (The staff could give a demo!) Sing songs such as ‘A sailor went to sea, sea, sea, to see what he could see, see, see, and all that he could see, see, see, was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea sea’! Have a go at marbles and discuss friendships and the games they played. They may remember hide and seek, British Bulldog, tag and hopscotch.


Start with a well-known prayer: ‘For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful, amen.’ Use a scoop to make mounds of potato and serve with a meat pie and peas. The gravy doesn’t have to be lumpy to be authentic! Choose an old school pudding such as jam roly-poly, semolina or spotted dick. Serve with custard.

If they are not too tired, you could have a go at school games – or save it for another day. Were any of your residents in a team? Do they remember getting picked and wearing coloured bibs?
Use bean bags for target throwing, have a go at chair-based tennis with fly swats and balloons. Try adapting games such as football and hockey by using soft balls and pool noodles for hockey sticks.

Keep with the school theme and make some simple paper fortune tellers, or try paper boats, French knitting, cat’s cradle or colour-by-numbers.

Do a final register and spend some time talking about your residents’ favourite part of their school day.

Other ideas for September: Harvest-based days and crafts, harvest festival, autumnal crafts such as leaf rubbings, and paintings using orange, red and brown colours.

Find more inspiration for school days in our round-up of residents’ memories from last year – here and here.