Travelling back from the amazing TACTYC Conference this weekend in York, I arrived at my parents in law’s house in Norfolk, deep in a power cut. Having debated the whole school readiness issue and easily concluded that the vital question is not whether children are ready to learn but what? (Whitebread, D. and Bingham, S. 2011) it was great to see a spontaneous and fun learning and play opportunity evolve. On arrival in the candlelit kitchen the children had hidden in the gloomy shadow of the table, only jumping out with a ‘boo’ when I least expected them. Shrieks of laughter ensued as they played hide and seek in the shadows of granny and grandads house. The arrival of a large specialised vehicle with double cherry picker on an extendable arm was good enough reason for us to decant to the street. There the children sat mesmerised on the dark pavement watching the spectacle unfold. They marvelled as the vehicle legs jacked the crane up and two power line repairmen climbed into the cherrypicker, the manoeuvrability of which caused lots of interest and discussion. They chatted to the ground based electrician, asking probing questions to better understand what was happening. They shared their knowledge of the dangers of electricity and explained to me, aged five and eight years, why the two men would not be electrocuted, (because the crane was insulated). As time edged past 9.30 the children were persuaded to come back in the house for bedtime. Not wishing for the experience to end, but fighting off tiredness my eight year old remembered the pass the parcel present she’d won earlier that day at a party. We rushed in the house to fetch it and she plucked up the courage to ask the two workers from the cherry picker to sign her new autograph book! Back in the house feeling really tired the children quickly succumbed to bed and us adults ate a candlelit tea.

With busy lives and routines it’s so easy to miss the sense of awe and wonder of occasions like these for children. A powercut turned into a magical evening of spooky tea and hide and seek games. The visitors in high vis jackets with their amazing equipment, sparked discussion over hydraulics, vehicles and safety. Returning to the issue of school readiness, moments like this make us realise the importance of changing the emphasis of the debate. Instead of focussing on whether children are ready for school let’s consider instead whether school is ready for them? Opportunities like these clearly won’t be available in schools, but the daily weather, seasons, visitors from the community and so on all give opportunities for children to extend their knowledge and make the links to real life. In doing so they tick several curriculum boxes too! If I was observing that night I would have evidenced elements of personal social and emotional development, communication, problem solving, knowledge and understanding of the world, physical and creative development. Not bad for a spontaneous night in the dark!