"THIS HAS been the best school day ever," proclaimed eight-year-old Ellie Manning.
She was spending the afternoon making tapas alongside her classmates and – best of all – her dad, Justin.
He, along with around 15 other male relatives of pupils of Sycamore Class at West Horndon Primary School, were busy slicing vegetables, chopping fruit and making pastry in preparation for an exotic feast to end the day they spent in school with their children, as part of Men in School week.
They had a literacy lesson, took part in a maths trail, had tennis coaching from a visiting professional and were cooking dishes such as cheese, leek and potato tortilla; corn, cheese and chilli empanadas and prawns in Romesco sauce when the Gazette joined the class for the day.
Ellie said: "It's been just a brilliant day. I've enjoyed everything we've done, especially with Dad here."
Justin, 39, an operations director, was equally enthusiastic. He said: "I think it's fantastic. I would not have missed it for the world. I think every parent or relative who wants to should be able to come to school for a day with their child, so they can see how schools have changed and what the children are learning."
This is the second year running the West Horndon Primary has run Men in Schools week, timed to run close to Father's Day.
Each day is the turn of a different year group to invite a male relative to come in to school and take part in normal lessons, plus special activities arranged by the teacher.
Head teacher Matt O'Grady said: "We received such great feedback from last year we decided to run the week again.
"Our aims are simple. Firstly, we want to encourage dads or other male family members to get an insight into their child's learning and experiences.
"Secondly, we want to develop their understanding of the crucial part they play as role models. By having men in school all of our pupils benefit, not just those whose family are able to attend. Male role models in primary school are sadly rare and this is one small way in which we try to redress the balance."
Adam Ward, 18, took the day off work to be with his brother, eight-year-old James Ward. The pair were enjoying the cooking class.
Adam said: "It's really different here from my primary school which was in Dagenham. This one is a lot smaller and has a really nice atmosphere.
"At lunchtime I played a game of 'It' with James and his mates; he loved it, and so did I – I also got some exercise."
James said: "It's been really nice to have Adam here and be able to show him round my school."
For 65-year-old Dennis Selleck, it was the first time he had been inside a school since he left his own 51 years ago. He was pleased to accompany grandson Joe Rudder.
Dennis, who is retired, said: "It's very different from my day. From what I have seen I think children are encouraged to learn rather than forced.
"I've enjoyed the day, especially seeing how they teach maths and literacy."
Joe, eight, said; "It's been really fun. Grandad keeps making the class laugh."
Clayton Moroney, 35, who runs his own business, was accompanying daughter Kyra, 7, and eight-year-old nephew Brody.
He said: "It's been beautiful, just hanging out with the kids.
"I did it last year, and both times I've been really impressed with the way the teacher organises and runs the class, and gets them to move from one activity to the next."
Kyra said: "It's been fun having Dad here and we've done fun stuff rather than just hard work."
Dan McNicol has spent two days in school with daughter Scarlett, 6, and another with nine-year-old Isabella.
The 40-year-old said: "I'm lucky that I work for myself so I can organise the time off as it is a fantastic day for both me and the kids. My daughters get so excited in the build-up, asking how many sleeps until daddy comes to school?
Class teacher Emily Saltmarsh said: "It is hard work preparing for the day but it is so worth it . The children are so excited by the event and the atmosphere is brilliant.
"As they are on their own territory the children feel they are in charge of the adults for the day and tell them what to do and where to go."