It all starts with a coffee...


Next week, thousands of schools will support the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, raising money for cancer support. Katherine Blaize-Smith offers some tips.

Next Friday (September 26), more than 15,000 schools will take part in The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning to help Macmillan Cancer Support raise vital funds for those affected by cancer.

With cancer affecting one in three people, and two million people currently living with cancer in the UK, the reality is that your students are likely to be close to someone affected by cancer.

Macmillan figures show that nearly a quarter of a million school children believe cancer is contagious. One in five (21 per cent) believe that cancer is always fatal, and more than half (52 per cent) don’t know what cancer is. It is therefore no surprise that more than half (53 per cent) of children feel frightened when they say or hear the word “cancer”. 

The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning provides an important opportunity to inform young people about the real facts of cancer and to tackle any misconceptions they might have, while teaching them valuable enterprise and life-skills. Here are 10 ideas and tips to get pupils involved.

Communication skills

Planning an event can provide pupils with countless opportunities to display effective communication skills. Host a school assembly and ask your young people to lead it. Alva Academy in Clackmannanshire holds the title of the most successful fundraising school in the UK – its pupils use tactics such as asking a third of the assembly’s attendees to stand, representing the number of those who could be affected by cancer. 

They also send out more than 200 “thank you” cards to corporate sponsors and partners following the main event, a move which has prompted continued support in following years. 


Students can be accredited for the skills and knowledge they gain while fundraising. Macmillan has partnered with ASDAN, a charitable social enterprise with awarding body status. A World’s Biggest Coffee Morning event can provide all of the evidence for these single-unit qualifications at Entry 3 to Level 3, available through ASDAN Unit Accreditation.


Task pupils with researching how people are affected by cancer and present these findings to others. Discuss how it affects people in the community and how your school’s fundraising support can directly help those in need of it most. 


Enterprise skills will be developed as your pupils run and organise their own coffee morning. It provides opportunities to discuss how a business works and get some hands-on experience and put these skills into practice. Allocate roles and teams – will you have a dedicated event planning team? A cookery team? Host meetings where pupils can discuss what will appeal most to customers, how to price the cakes and coffee, and how marketing ties in with this. They could even compete against each other to raise the most money!

Getting creative

Creating compelling marketing and promotion materials teaches pupils valuable skills. Create publicity posters to get customers along to the event and special invitations for parents. Ask them to think about branding and the language they use to communicate the overall messages around the event.


Handling money might initially be a task some pupils find daunting, but working out the amount of change a customer should be given when purchasing a cake or coffee will boost confidence and provide pupils with essential, practical maths skills. 

Food education

Stress the importance of health and safety, food safety, and even healthy eating. Discuss the implications of catering for a large number of people, stress hygiene matters such as hand-washing and the supply of utensils. Will people need tables and chairs if it gets crowded? Will young children and infants be catered for? Talk about the practical side of making cakes and coffee and healthy alternatives. 

Film and media

Make a short film of your coffee morning. Get everyone involved, or task a small team with the role of director and reporters, encouraging teamwork. Task the pupils with finding their inner Sue and Mel or Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood and channel the BBC’s Great British Bake-Off. Ask parents to award winning cakes and film the results on an iPad or video camera. Macmillan might even be able to use your footage in the next television advert!


Reward the pupils for their work following the success of the event. Alva Academy awarded medals to the 6th-formers who led their own coffee morning and mentioned them in the school newsletter. Share their experiences and put into context how far the monies raised will benefit those living with cancer.

Talk about cancer

Talking about cancer doesn’t have to be a separate task on your list. Encourage young people to talk openly about it and ask questions along the way. Some may have been affected by it already in some way or another and may wish to be more involved in talking about cancer to the rest of the class.

The Macmillan website offers a range of educational resources including Talking about Cancer practical toolkits, activity sheets, assembly guides and DVD clips alongside general advice and guidance covering both how it affects people, and treatment and recovery.

  • Katherine Blaize-Smith is coffee morning manager for Macmillan Cancer Support. 

Further information


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