Red Nose Day: Letting your students take control


Letting your students take charge of planning charitable activities boosts their confidence, supports learning and develops life-skills. John Duncan explains how his students take charge for Comic Relief.

For this year’s Red Nose Day, which takes place on Friday, March 15, our students are taking charge. Fifty of them have already signed up to plan and run the school’s fundraising activities – from bake-offs, dance-offs and lunchtime five-a-side to “Strictly Nose Dancing”!

We have found that taking part in purposeful fundraising builds confidence, supports learning across the curriculum and develops important life-skills.

Students who sign up to run activities learn how to plan events, talk to local businesses, and raise awareness of issues. They will have to take responsibility, show initiative, organise themselves and others. These are the skills and experiences that will stand out on CVs and personal statements as they plan for university and beyond.

This year’s planning kicked off with an ideas meeting at the beginning of term. The students were brimming with ideas and within a few days a draft plan had taken shape.

From about now, students spend a lunchtime a week planning and organising activities. A core group of older students do much of the organising, leading various groups with responsibility for specific events, with help and support from the younger ones. 

On February 15, students will use the school library to launch Red Nose Day. This is an opportunity for some advanced publicity about plans for the week, to get people signing up for events, and to start selling Red Noses. It begins to generate awareness more widely across the school and sets a deadline for the students.

This year, the week itself will start a little early with a Family Fun Day on the Sunday (March 10). Working with our local primary schools, we are planning a forest walk, bike time trials, orienteering and a treasure hunt. People will pay to enter the different competitions.

A major aim this year is to include the community in what we are doing. Through working with primary schools we hope to develop an understanding of what we are doing on a wider scale, tapping into the citizenship elements of the curriculum.

The senior students will run assemblies for each of the year groups at the start of the week, using videos and materials from Comic Relief’s website. Their aim is to raise awareness of why Red Nose Day is needed (really important in motivating students to raise funds). When people see that the money they raise will make a difference to people their own age they become more engaged. During the week we will use our personal and social education lessons to focus on mental health in the UK, addressing issues raised by the Time to Change campaign supported by Comic Relief.

Students will host lunchtime events throughout the week, including games console tournaments, teacher-student netball matches, board games competitions, and teachers’ university challenge. The focus will be on simple activities with small targets and small tasks. Strictly Nose Dancing on March 13 will be on a grander scale, but the students will still do much of the negotiating and organising.

The extra-curricular contact with teachers and adults in the school is beneficial to the working environment within academic subjects, often breaking down barriers and building respect between staff and pupils.

Everything leads to the day itself. The main event will be an “It’s a Knock-out” style battle of the school houses, held in the last two hours of the day. The teacher on the losing team (the captain) will face the gunge tank. It will also be dress-up day so students will be paying to dress up “Disney style”.

This year we are asking all our students to set themselves personal challenges – sponsored runs, silences, dressing-up – on the basis that if every one of our 900 students raises £22, we would make £20,000. This again feeds into the “community spirit” idea or citizenship model of everyone working together.

So not only do our students raise as much money as they can to help people with difficult lives, they also gain skills and experience that will support their learning in other subjects.

Fundraising events need to be planned and managed. There are letters to write to parents and potential sponsors, press releases to put out, publicity posters and event tickets to create – all require literacy skills. 

At the same time costs need to be researched, budgets set, tickets priced, statistics and league tables compiled so mathematical skills will be in demand. 

And then there’s health and safety. This year our students are planning a bake-off and being aware of paperwork and the issue of risk assessment (what if a pan catches fire?) are skills for the workplace.

We believe that a focus on personal responsibility and student-led activities sets the ethos at our school. Our students take responsibility and act responsibly and in doing so their confidence grows. As they fundraise, plan, negotiate, collaborate and communicate they are the embodiment of responsible, confident young people who are making an important contribution to other people’s lives. 


And as they prepare for March 15, I can’t help but wonder what these confident, responsible young people will be asking me to do this year…

  • John Duncan is a teacher of English at Westhill Academy in Aberdeenshire.

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