Matthew Harwood, nine, is thoroughly enjoying Non-Uniform Day at Hawes Side Academy Primary School.
He’s sporting his Blackpool FC kit complete – and knows that every 50p every child has paid for the privilege of wearing what they like as opposed to the usual (albeit new-look academy) uniform will be well spent.
For it’s going to help the very health service which helped him when it was found out his heart was playing up, Lancashire Cardiac Centre and the Women’s and Children’s Unit specialist heart clinics for children.
Matthew admits he still runs out of puff on a football pitch. “I can only play for so long before I get tired,” he explains.
He’s still got some nerve. “I’ve got a DVD of when Blackpool beat Liverpool 2-1. You can borrow it if you like. I can recommend it.”
Have a heart, Matthew, I’m a Liverpool fan. But at least we’ve got a manager. Matthew would like Karl Oyston to splash out on Gianfranco Zola.
It’s thanks to Matthew’s mum Nikki that chaos currently reigns at Hawes Side Academy, one of the first primary schools to throw in its lot as an academy while the Government pushes for more.
Nikki and fellow teaching assistant Suzanne Stringfellow have had a baking spree.
There are 600 pupils at Hawes Side. In half an hour 400 cakes have been sold at 25p a time. All the proceeds go, along with those non-uniform day 50 pences, to local cardiac services for children.
As the youngest pupils in the reception class were first in the queue they bought four at a time – allegedly for mums and dads. They could make a tidy profit on the bootleg bun market come lunchtime.
Word is, the cakes are running out. I tag on the end of one queue and get glared at by 20 kids who materialise behind me.
By the time we reach the pop-up stall it’s down to a handful of those chocolate-covered crispy creations we all baked as kids – and biscuits one evolutionary step away from dull digestives: custard creams. Yuck.
Even teachers are closely questioned by flint-eyed kids as to whether any of the cakes have ended up stashed in the staff room.
The answer’s an emphatic no. The trail of crumbs leads to Matthew and five chums who are delighted the cakes are selling like, well, hot cakes, because it means more kids will get the help their hearts may need.
Nice timing for Valentine’s Day too – kids of this age not being big on the mushy stuff but keen on bagging an iced heart or love heart of their own atop the tasty buns.
It’s a rare treat. There’s usually a fruit tuck shop here as befits a more diet-aware age. Hawes Side is also a green flag winning eco school so has a Fair Trade tuck shop too selling chewy bars and raisin packs.
Nikki is a bit of a slave driver with her bake a cake fund-raiser. She was cooking up hot buns till 11pm on Wednesday night to ensure the kids got a Valentine’s cake and press-ganged Suzanne in to help on her birthday. No birthday cake as Suzanne has since seen enough cake to give Mr Kipling recurring nightmares.
But the children would like more please. Ethan Dixon-Bell, 10, has no intention of sharing. “Looks too good.” Jo Pemberton, 10, gives an Oscar-like acceptance of her cake which she plans to share with her sisters Dani and Alex, brothers Jamie and Christopher and his girlfriend, and her mum for “being there for me.”
In their current absence she reconsiders and crams it into her mouth instead.
Lauren Stewart, 11, bags two so she can take one home for mum and because “it’s such a worthy cause”. Lauren says heart disease has affected her own family, and several of the other children agree. “My grandad’s going in for a heart operation,” adds Emily Grace-Bolton, 10. Elliott Fleckney, 10, admits he worries about his grandad’s heart.
As for Matthew? He has a heart condition called a ventricular septal defect – basically meaning that he has a hole in one of the walls between the chambers in his heart.
His mum Nikki concludes: “He was born with this but as we were unaware of it we had a horrible time for six months after he was born.
“He lost a lot of weight as a baby and was taken into hospital where the condition was discovered. He was referred to Alder Hey children’s hospital.
“We are now back with Blackpool Victoria who are fantastic with him. We have been lucky in that he has not had to have an operation but regular scans to keep an eye on him – and it certainly doesn’t stop him anyway.
“But the whole fundraising thing at school has been a big hit.
“The children have been excited about it while at the same time understanding the reason for their donations.
“It’s surprising how many have been touched by heart disease in their own families – and want to do their bit. Heartwarming!”