I’ve just spent a week at Datchet St Mary’s primary school, talking to children in all the different classes, and helping them with their own creative writing.
I don’t often get to spend a whole week in a school. Usually I visit a school for no more than a single day, and often for no more than an hour. So it was wonderful to return to the school every day for a week, and see the same children again, and work with them on their writing, and watch their stories grow and develop.
Datchet is a village near Windsor. A five minute walk from the school takes you to the Thames, and the children know it well. They canoe on the river, or walk their dogs along the bank.
When I was preparing for my work at the school, I did a bit of research into Datchet. I re-read the funniest book ever written (Three Men in a Boat), but was disappointed to discover that Datchet hardly gets a mention. I thought about the places nearby – Windsor, Eton, Slough – but didn’t want to limit our stories to any of them. In the end I decided to draw on two children’s books which begin on the banks of the river, The Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland.
Mole sets out on a journey by the river… He meets Water Rat, Badger, Toad…
Alice sits down and dreamily watches a white rabbit run along the bank… Then falls down a hole…
Together we read the first pages of these books, then created characters who could explore the river, its islands and its banks.
I was very impressed by the creativity and enthusiasm of the children at the school. And by their powerful imaginations. We wrote stories together. And drew pictures. And invented characters and plots. And created books.
A photographer from the local paper, the Windsor Express, came to the school and took this photo. A nice memento of a week in Datchet.