For many teenagers across the country, this week includes one of THE most important dates in the school calendar, Muck Up Day. For those sitting their A’levels this is officially their time to let off some steam before the start of the exams, but also to celebrate the end of an era as they say a fond farewell to their school days and head off into the big wide world.
What constitutes Muck Up Day varies from school to school. Some simply opt for a themed dress up day. For others, however, this is a little bit too “sensible” and instead involves weeks of planning and preparation akin to a Mission Impossible movie as the students seek to surprise and outwit their teachers with something a bit different – classrooms filled with balloons, sellotape over staircases, marbles strewn along hallways, teachers’ cars wrapped in clingfilm – the stuff of logistical precision and creativity.
For those leaving school, Muck Up Day is the opportunity to leave a personal impression beyond the classroom or the sports field. From the schools’ perspective, however, the impression they leave has to be the right one.
They want their departing students to remember that not only are they setting an example to those pupils left behind but also representing the school in the local community. They want them to do themselves and their school proud and leave with their heads held high.
There have been reports over the years of some Muck Up Days getting out of control and as a result some schools have put in rules limiting what can be done, which goes some way to defeating the whole point of the harmless fun and chaos that the day is supposed to create.
Harmless, however, is the operative word here. Everyone has to enjoy the joke and the fun needs to be conducted within certain parameters. No one wants to be confronted by anarchy, but a little bit of chaos is to be expected.
Of the parents I have spoken to about the guidelines from their teenagers’ schools, the general rule of thumb seems to be that any pranks should not cause serious damage or endanger anyone – all of which seems perfectly reasonable, but may of course be open to misinterpretation by a bunch of lively teenagers.
There are some iconic Muck Up Day stories that do the rounds, the most popular being the three pigs that were brought into one school and numbered one, two and four resulting in the teachers wasting their whole day looking for the pig wearing the number three that of course didn’t exist – pure genius some might say.
There is also the infamous story of the school whose leavers’ put up a series of posters for several weeks prior to Muck Up Day saying simply “They Are Coming”, until almost every noticeboard in the school was covered. The night before Muck Up Day the signs suddenly disappeared and when the school opened the next morning every classroom, corridor, changing room and broom cupboard was full of hundreds of garden gnomes – a costly prank for sure but no doubt worth it for notoriety alone.
I have also heard of a story closer to home that involved a cow being left in a school hall which was on the second floor of a building. Unfortunately whilst cows are quite happy to be led up stairs they are less keen on being led down, so it had to be airlifted out of the building at great expense to the school and presumably great distress to the cow.
Jokes and pranks aside, however, there is of course the more official aspect to Muck Up Day, it is actually Leaver’s Day and a chance for the school to celebrate their pupils’ journey from child to adult with awards for their achievements.
Pupils leave clutching medals, cups, a leaver’s book full of pictures, personal anecdotes from friends and teachers as well as the obligatory “Year of…” hoodie! Yes it would seem you are never too old! Where would we be without a summer of spotting fellow school leavers at home and abroad?
With my own teenager leaving school this year the stress of exams has taken somewhat of a back seat as the excitement mounts in anticipation of Muck Up Day. My son’s school has arranged a full day of activities starting with a leaver’s breakfast and including performances from bands, magicians and comedians before moving on to the formalities of prize giving and the leavers’ photograph.
The school has issued the customary “plea for support” email to parents asking us to reiterate the need for exemplary behaviour along with a reminder from the local police that there should be no significant disruption by way of carnival style marches or parades in the immediate area.
In terms of specific plans, we like many other parents no doubt are in the dark. There has been discussion of a need to meet with friends at 6am on Muck Up Day and lots of covert whispering but nothing that will risk any best laid plans being foiled. Secrecy is paramount, so like everyone else we will have to wait and see.
One thing is sure though, it will be an emotional day for our country’s school leavers in more ways than one and however they choose to celebrate and leave their mark, for them at least it will be worth it as to quote my teenager “You Can’t Put A Price On Memories”.