Sometimes I wish you could copyright an educational idea, even though I've only ever had two of them. The first was 20 years ago, in Portsmouth. There was a thriving junior school, seemingly always growing in numbers. But unlike any other school I'd been in, the adults who picked the children up at the end of the day were grandparents, not parents. Both parents, I speculated, were busy at work, essentially earning the fees, whilst the grandparents did the afternoon school run, made the afternoon tea and, in one case, I always suspected, managed some of the homework too. They loved it; and the school, which in return loved them, saw every benefit in enticing them to love it even more.
Hence the inaugural Portsmouth Grandparents Day, a chance to have a tour of the school, watch your grandchild in the band, and experience their lessons. At the end of the afternoon, I seem to remember, we gave them a ride along the seafront in an open top bus. When the imitators got going, which they swiftly did, that last bit of it was satisfyingly hard to imitate.
20 years on, presenting the prizes for a famous prep school, in a splendid church situated just round the corner from the Houses of Parliament, my focus shifted a generation, from the grandparents to the parents themselves. Not only were they almost all there, but they were also more than unusually grateful to the school and proud of it. There wasn't a grandparent in sight.