Classlist Members Stories

Members Stories: Manja Uglow, Chair Dragon Sale Committee

Manja Uglow - Classlist Member

 A busy mother of three children, Manja Uglow is also chair of the Dragon School Christmas Sale Committee – an enormous fundraising event that generates nearly £100,000 every year for children’s charities.

Around 750 children, staff and parents get involved in the event, which has been running for more than 70 years at the well-known north Oxford prep school. Hundreds more attend the event, which also marks the end of the Christmas term – and it comes as no surprise that orchestrating it is a massive commitment of time for Manja and her hardworking team. “It’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in,” says Manja, who estimates she works around two hours a day, year-round, on the event, which last year saw record numbers of children running their own fund-raising stalls. The month before the Sale, she devotes herself full-time to the organisation, which can involve anything from a slew of meetings and emails to driving up to Stoke-on-Trent to collect all the crockery for the plate-smashing stall.

Manja says that using the secure parent communication platform Classlist has substantially improved parental involvement with the Sale.

“The Sale is about the school community coming together – and Classlist definitely helps to make that happen.”

The organisers of last year’s tombola saw a “big spike” in ticket sales following publicity on Classlist. “In today’s busy world it is not always easy to reach parents – and this is particularly the case at the Dragon where many children board. But many parents but are already signed onto Classlist to get information about what’s going on in the school so they absorb information about the Sale at the same time. “In the past we’ve had some parents of boarders who live overseas turning up to pick up their kids and unaware the Sale was taking place. Last year we had many parents of boarders volunteering to help on the day which we never used to have.

“Organising the Dragon Sale is a major undertaking – apart from the stalls there are a number of other well-loved features. These include ‘Authors’ Corner’ where children can meet well-known writers and illustrators who come to sign copies of their latest books. Famous names in recent years have included Cressida Cowell, Mary Berry, Jack Whitehall (a former pupil), Jeremy Paxman (a former parent) and Gorky Paul, an Oxford neighbour and loyal supporter of the Sale.

“I got involved with the Sale as an opportunity to give something back – especially to the staff who do such a wonderful job for our children,”

There is also an auction in which parents get the chance to bid for anything from a tour of a local castle followed by tea with its owner to – memorably – the chance to have a drawing of your child done by famous contemporary artist Jenny Saville.

But for Manja, herself a former primary school teacher, the focus of the Sale is firmly on the children. “I love this age group and for me the children are at the heart of the Sale. In recent years, we have encouraged more and more of them to run their own stalls and now they also choose the charities we donate the profits to. Each year group votes for their favourite charities all of whom receive a donation. This is about the children learning to think of others and how they can help those less fortunate. This year, 38 pupil groups came to present to the sale committee to request funds for their chosen charities. They are becoming young philanthropists, not only now but hopefully in their future years as well.”

Originally from the Netherlands, Manja has been volunteering at the Dragon Sale for 10 years – originally in the section devoted to younger children (where she was dressed up as an elf). She took over as the chair of the committee a year ago. “I got involved with the Sale as an opportunity to give something back – especially to the staff who do such a wonderful job for our children,” says Manja, whose own children are aged 13, 11 and nine. “The Sale is about the school community coming together – and Classlist definitely helps to make that happen.”