Mums and dads across the land must be cheering the news: the class teddy bear is in danger of extinction. According to the Times Educational Supplement, every reception parent's most dreaded weekend guest is slowly being strangled at the hands of pushy, competitive types.
Competitive parents have turned the tradition of scrapbooking the soft toy's adventures over each child's two day stint into a polar bear-sized stealth boast about the packed and tremendously exciting lives they lead.Teds have, we're told, been enjoying an agenda of one-upmanship, taking in everything from orchestra performances to VIP trips.
Teachers on the TES discussion forum even report some bears have hung out with Premiership footballers and...been lingerie shopping. A bit like being the Victoria Beckham of the teddy world really.
For those of you whose kids have escaped the 'honour' of hosting an often not very hygienic, dog-eared stuffed toy for a couple of days, let me explain who the class bear is and how his life pans out.
His habitat is commonly a reception or year 1 classroom, where for much of the week he sits forlornly on a shelf, ignored by children and staff alike. Come Friday at around 3pm though, he is set free from captivity and heads home with a different child for a couple of days en famille.
The chosen child will doubtless be excited at least – to be fair it is special to be the pupil in possession of the class cuddly. At the end of the weekend though, the pupil has to write up (or attempt to depending on age and literacy skills) what they did in a scrapbook, adding some photos of the bear's adventures for illustrative purposes.
A charming idea and all - it's about strengthening the link between home and school - but there are hitches to it even beyond the 'who can have the world's most wonderful weekend' competition one. First up, you've got to actually keep hold of your little furry charge for the entire weekend, despite taking him out left, right and centre. Not easy and the consequences of loss can be dire.
Mum of two Sarah had the (almost) traumatic experience of the class bear going awol during her older son's stint. "We couldn't find him for a whole 24 hours," she recalls. "We can laugh about it now but it felt serious at the time! My son was in tears. We looked all over. We were all terrified - including the grown-ups - of having to go in and fess up to the teacher on the Monday morning."
Fortunately 'Barnaby' did turn up in time and Sarah's son still had a day of joint activities left to document. These, I'm told, included a trip to the local swimming baths (Barnaby stayed in the changing room locker, although surely a chloriney bath would do the average class soft toy a lot of good) and a visit to meet the grandparents.
Even if you manage not to misplace the teddy, or have it chewed to death by your pet dog/ teething younger baby, there's also the question of whether you actually want such a skanky, germ-ridden and dust mite infested object around, least of all in your child's bed - you can guarantee the grubbier the soft toy, the more they will want to hug it all night long. Maybe the first leg of the bear's weekend away should be a seafaring adventure (the washing machine), followed by some arctic exploration (the freezer - good for dust mite-busting)?
But back to the biggest challenge which is of course what on earth to do with it to make sure you have something engaging to say beyond one teacher's wonderfully mundane example, as quoted in the TES - "the bear wandered aimlessly round B&Q looking at taps".
The fact is most families who have young kids don't weekend in the South of France producing a "here's Bertie on the beach in St Tropez!" photo opportunity. They go to the playground in the park, to granny's for Sunday lunch, they watch quite a lot of Cbeebies. If they're lucky they might head out for a pizza for Saturday tea time.
Well, that's what I thought people did until I heard about what's goes in the scrapbooks. And herein is the upside of the experience (apart from your child's enjoyment and the educational value of course). Leafing through the pages is like a fabulous 'through the keyhole' nose into the lives, and sometimes the psyche, of the other parents. A Hello magazine insight but penned in the scrawly handwriting of a five-year-old.
Take mum of two, Camilla, who on opening her daughter's class teddy scrapbook, got more info than she bargained for: "One of the mums had stuck photos of herself reclining on various open-top sports cars in a bikini in there." Maybe she mistook bear for bare?
Maybe teddy could go to these places...