Teaching assistant spends 70 hours making Shrek beanies for children’s return

Chris Dowie made the hats for year six students at North Ormesby Primary Academy in Middlesbrough, who were returning after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Chris Dowie made the hats for year six students at North Ormesby Primary Academy in Middlesbrough, who were returning after the Covid-19 lockdown.

A teaching assistant spent 70 hours making 34 Shrek beanies to welcome children back to their primary school after lockdown.

A photograph of 32 North Ormesby Primary Academy children wearing the green hats went viral after being posted to Twitter by the school’s headteacher.

They were the handiwork of Chris Dowie, 62, after she made an offhand promise to a year six student that she would make one for everyone in the class once lockdown was lifted.

She told the PA news agency: “I just laughed it off but then when we realised that we were going back to school I thought well, I should really do something for it because I promised them.

“I can’t let them down with what they’ve gone through.”

Mrs Dowie brought the finished hats into the school in Middlesbrough on Tuesday after spending around 70 hours working on them.

She said the reaction of the children was “a joy to see”.

“I brought the carrier bag out, opened the carrier bag and they were just ecstatic,” she said.

“They were just laughing and shouting, and I had to calm them down to get them to put their hats on before they went out.”

The resulting photograph showing 32 children wearing the hats – mostly with beaming smiles on their faces – has been liked on Twitter more than 30,000 times, gaining attention from celebrities including Kate Beckinsale and Carol Vorderman.

Chris Dowie
Chris Dowie made the hats for year six students (North Ormesby Primary Academy/PA)

Headteacher Craig Nicholson told PA: “If anything, the pressure’s on Mrs Dowie now to make more.

“I’ve got a bunch of teaching staff that want one, I’ve got the rest of the children who are going to want one making, and there’s circa 30,000 people on Twitter who are all asking for Shrek beanies as well, so she’s going to be busy.”

Mrs Dowie said repeating the same pattern over and over again became “very boring”, adding: “I was doing it in my sleep towards the end.”

She revealed that she kept her mind occupied while crocheting by watching the classic US political TV drama The West Wing, getting through four series in the time it took her to complete the hats.

One beneficiary of her work was Mr Nicholson, who proudly wore his hat as he toured the school on Wednesday morning.

“There were some really nice giggles and wry smiles from everyone,” he said.

“I’ll be treasuring that… I’m a very proud member of the Shrek beanie revolution.”

He said the gesture was very in character for the “absolutely amazing” Mrs Dowie, who has been at the school for around 30 years and has brought her creations in from home regularly.

“We’ve got animals that have been crocheted that are sitting in one of our mental health rooms,” he said.

“There are tissue boxes, there are scarves, there are hats – there’s all sorts around school she’s brought in over the years.”

He added: “She’s absolutely amazing and has children right at the heart of everything that she does.”

After a disrupted year which has seen a lot of children miss out on months of being in school, Mr Nicholson said it was important that schools pay as much attention to students’ social and emotional wellbeing as to their academic education.

That sentiment was echoed by Mrs Dowie who said: “We hear in the news about catch-up and everything, but the catch-up should be them having fun, the catch-up should be about joy and laughter.”