Yvonne Wake

Barnes Summer Play School & Big Top Adventures is 28 years old.

I sometimes have to pinch myself and often wonder how a little annoying moment on Barnes common 28 years ago could turn into what the school is today. I was basically feeding the ducks with my two children and newly pregnant with my third, and it just got to me that there was nowhere fun and interesting and safe for my children to attend all day in the summer months. I made enquiries, checked it all out and the BSPS plan was plotted!

My own childhood was unpretentious with a short supply of money. This meant we never had a TV until way after all the other children in our street! Back then, with no computers or PlayStations to stir us up, our only toys were either a doll or a train. My finest hour was when my mum turned the very large Sunday newspapers into giant ladders for a make believe Jack (of the Beanstalk) to climb. My two siblings and I were crouched under the kitchen table (our camp) watching my mum, as if nothing greater could ever happen to us. She told magnificent stories, and we were in raptures. We drew pictures on the back of Kellogg’s Cornflake boxes and my mum pinned them up all over the kitchen. We loved that and felt like real artists! Soooooooo, I guess that’s where I got my inspiration! As we grew older, we went off to Coram’s Fields which has been running for 78 years and has been a vital park, playground and community resource for the children, young people and families in Central London. We lived in Islington and my mum would drop us off there every morning with a packed lunch (consisting of a corned beef and cucumber crusty roll, an apple and a biscuit) and she would come back and collect us at the end of her working day. It was the best time ever!

Ever since I started Barnes Summer Play School (in 1989) it has gone from strength to strength and flourished. My own children and other family members all contributed to the success of this family run business which we all absolutely cherish and enjoy. The team who work with me @ BSPS have pretty much grown up with the school, and last year we counted heads and realised that every member of staff had actually been a child at the school over the years. Extraordinary! Now that’s what I call Organic! The BSPS and Big Top team members are reliable and hardworking and return most years with a gap year or two in between, and lots of them have gone on to become teachers and work in education and social care.

Fast forward to 2017 and my two grandchildren now attend the school and already my 13 year old granddaughter is asking when she can ‘have a job’ at the school.

Big Top Adventures provides the older children who may have younger siblings at BSPS with some constructive and entertaining fun during the summer.

The school comes under the same criteria as a school which is open the whole year, so a lot of hard work goes into its organisation and all the staff undergo early years training and as well as Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks (previously CRB checks).

Parent feedback is imperative if we are to keep one step ahead so anything you might wish to mention is most welcome.

Here’s looking forward to another successful year!