Making School Memories: Fright Night
Type: All | Category: Making School Memories | Date: 9th October 2017
31st October only means one thing where we’re from – Halloween! Ever considered incorporating the spooky day into your teaching to mix things up from the regular classroom activities? Children can feel the excitement of All Hallow’s Eve, learn and get a good scare in all at the same time with Fright Night.
Making School Memories is designed to do exactly what its title suggests – provide you with wonderful ideas that will make children remember their time at school fondly. Leavers’ Books will take a look at unique and fun ideas that can turn your classroom upside down, strip away the bland and mundane lesson plans and rally make education an experience.
What goes bump in the night? Usually me as I stub my toe on the coffee table, unable to find the light switch. But have you ever heard of Fright Night, or considered running a night at your school? What better way to invoke a surge of emotion to inspire and unlock creativity, encouraging children to want to write something they find fun and feel passionate about. Leaver’s Books sat down with the pioneers of Fright Night, Fulbridge Academy in Peterborough, to find out more about Fright Night – and what makes it a ghastly success.
What is Fright Night?
Mainly just an opportunity to scare the children! We advertise it as an opportunity for the children to face fears and experience the feeling of being scared in what they know is a safe environment.
How do you organise it?
A small group of teachers get together at the beginning of September to decide what the theme is going to be. We then do an assembly to the children telling them about it (it's just for year 5 and 6). We send out letters to get an idea of how many pupils are up for it. Out of 180 children in year 5 and 6, we usually have about 120 attend.
It takes a few weeks to organise; culminating in a frantic few hours before the children arrive getting the corridors! The main task is getting together the props and decorations. We do it at the beginning of November as it’s just after Halloween. So on the 1st November each year we go around to all the shops in town and a few of the local retail parks, and ask if they’ll donate their in stock Halloween decorations now they don't need them anymore.
Not everyone says yes, but when they hear it’s for a school, most do! We run Fright Night each year with a tiny, tiny budget - often free. It’s amazing how many people donate either skills or resources. If we do have to spend money, we ask the children to pay £1 or £2 to cover the costs; they never have an issue with this. They look forward to Fright Night from around year two!
When does it happen? Why not in October?
Not only for the chance to keep costs down with getting supplies for free or very cheap, but it happens on the first Friday evening in November, after the clocks have gone back to make it darker as the spirit of Halloween is still very much alive. We usually run it 3 times in one evening, each lasting an hour. We do it in the evening, not only so it's dark, but because it still remains a novelty and almost a mystery to step into the school at a time when you should really be there.
How do you set it up? How many staff do you need to make sure it runs smoothly?
We need a minimum staff of 8, but usually everyone wants to get involved as it's a lot of fun. So we normally have between 10-12 adults. We start setting up as soon as the children leave and it's quite frantic, often coming together just before the children arrive. They're so excited they often arrive 45 minutes to an hour early.
We take it turns, a group of us makes the school look spooky whilst the other group gets their costumes and face paint on (this year one of our teachers brought their sister in to do special effects with latex - we looked very scary), then we swap.
Why do you do it?
We believe in giving our pupils experiences they will never forget. We do it for educational reasons too, but it's really good fun, and I believe that that should be enough of a reason to do things with the children.
From a school point of view, we also get some really good writing out of it - some of the most enthusiastic writing of the year in fact. Emotions are at such a high on the night the descriptive writing the Monday after is incredible.
How much planning does it take?
The first year took quite a lot of planning, as we didn’t really know what we were doing. But the second year was much easier, and it’s gotten easier every year since.
We start planning early September, but that’s just getting a story and a theme together really. In October, we start to decide the finer details. What characters do we need, what props, what are the 'scares' going to be?
The real work starts about two weeks before the night: getting props together, getting our costumes sorted, etc. So it’s a bit of work, but it’s so much fun, it’s completely worth it.
How do you create the 'story'? Is it new every year?
Yes, it’s a new story every year. We try to make sure there is some kind of link to the school. To be honest, they are often inspired by a book, film or TV show we've watched, but we make lots and lots of changes to the initial idea. We have to make it work with what we've got. Mainly long corridors!
What stories have you done so far?
I had to research this, but we have been doing Fright Nights since 2012! Which means this year is our sixth Fright Night. I’m not sure if this is the right order, but here are the stories we have used:
This one was very loosely inspired by the Twilight Zone. The story was that Mr Bailey, the very first head teacher at the school back in World War I, went missing with a class of 30 pupils. As the children entered the school, they travelled back in time and became Mr Bailey’s final class. They went on the journey that the class went on all those years ago, except they had to try and get out rather than going missing forever.
My favourite bit was that the night started with our current head teacher stood in front of the children in an 'assembly', suddenly all the lights went out, and he swapped places with his son who was hiding under a table dressed as Mr Bailey. When the light came back on there was a new head teacher in front of them. It was incredibly effective and got an amazing reaction.
In case you're interested, Mr Bailey was actually the first ever head teacher after the school was first built in WW1. But he never went missing, and his class certainly didn’t! As far as we can tell he was a very long standing and successful head teacher!
A few of our teachers are fans of The Walking Dead, so of course we had to have a zombie apocalypse themed night. There were lots of screams at this one, and the staff loved dressing up as zombies. This had less of a story but lots of jumps. We found that whilst the children loved it, they preferred it when there was a strong story to follow.
There is an old story in the local area that the river running by the school was where witches were drowned to see if they are actually witches. Some of our cleaners genuinely believe this to be true and a few years ago we had a couple who wouldn’t go down one end of the school after dark as they swore it got suddenly colder!
We recreated the story, complete with witches and with trials.
We recreated Cluedo! The head teacher had died and the pupils had to travel around the school (we lined the corridors with white tape and they had to roll a die to move), and find out who killed him, with what and where. Of course in our version of Cluedo, there was the added twist of a haunted school to make it creepier.
I think we probably put more thought and effort into last year’s than we ever had before, and we are very, very proud of it. The week leading up to Fright Night the children read a book written by one of our teachers in their guided reading. The book was called ‘Under Quarantine’ and followed the story of a boy on his first day at a new school.
In the story, they had a mysterious late night assembly that day, and the assembly was interrupted by men in suits - the school was put under quarantine as rebel scientists had been creating a dangerous virus. The pupils in the story had to try and find the vaccine by solving puzzles and riddles. But just before taking the vaccine they were warned that they have been lied to and the rebel scientists were actually on their side and the vaccine is actually a poison. The last chapter of the book had been ripped out, so they never got to know how it ended.
When the children arrived for Fright Night, men in suits walked in and placed the school under quarantine. The look on their faces as they realised they were about to live the book they had just read was priceless. At the end of Fright Night they were all given a copy of the book complete with the final chapter so they could read and see whether they were right to drink (or not drink the vaccine).
We had the books printed with Book Printing UK for less than £1.50 per book, and we charged the children £2 to attend Fright Night. They loved it, and lots of them tell us they still read the book - sometimes a year later!
This year the theme is Doctors During WW1, as the school was built to be a war time hospital. The war ended before it was completed, but the children don’t know that! I won’t tell you any more about this year, but feel free to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see how it goes!
What ‘events’ take place during the night? What activities?
We try to make it about more than just walking around the school, so there are usually puzzles to figure out. Whether its hidden messaged in UV paint, big jigsaws, having to eat disgusting foods or solving riddles, if they are to survive Fright Night they have to earn it.
Which has been your favourite Fright Night so far?
Personally, Under Quarantine. The night coming together after a week of reading the book was wonderful. It had a really strong story and the children got a souvenir. Cluedo was different to the rest, which was enjoyable, and the first one will always be remembered fondly (it also had an amazing storyline). So it is difficult to pick a favourite and I think every teacher will have a different top pick.
How has the response been?
Children love it. Parents are always jealous they’re not allowed to get involved. At the beginning of the year, all the pupils are asked what they are most looking forward to, and at the end of the year what their favourite thing was that year. 9 out of 10 times the answer to both is Fright Night.
Any advice to schools considering doing it for Halloween?
Just do it. It's really good fun. The pupils love it, and it's not that much work to prepare and complete; you only need two to three weeks to put something together. If you want any advice, or want to come witness our Fright Night this year, just get in touch with us!
Also - make it scary! You might have noticed from the pictures, we make the night genuinely scary. The children are terrified. We’ve had pupils in tears, some refusing to enter classrooms, and lots and lots of screams. But as they complete Fright Night there is always a lot of laughter. If you don't get their adrenaline and emotions going, it just won’t be the same.
Learning to cope with fear is a life lesson that goes beyond the classroom.
Far beyond your traditional apple bobbing, face painting and Thriller dance recitals, Fright Night is a uniquely devilish way to make one special school memory. What’s stopping you from adding the scariest page to your end-of-year leavers’ yearbook?