Harvest Festival Memories

Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled
And the silk inside a chestnut shell
Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled
All these things I love so well
So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget.

Clouds that look like familiar faces
And a winter’s moon with frosted rings
Smell of bacon as I fasten up my laces
And the song the milkman sings.
So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget.

Whipped-up spray that is rainbow-scattered
And a swallow curving in the sky
Shoes so comfy though they’re worn out and they’re battered
And the taste of apple pie.
So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget.

Scent of gardens when the rain’s been falling
And a minnow darting down a stream
Picked-up engine that’s been stuttering and stalling
And a win for my home team.
So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget.

Lyrics by Estelle White

This was one of my favourite assembly songs because it is about my favourite season. Schools all over the country will be getting ready to hold their harvest festivals and for us it was always a special event.

All the schools where I was head teacher were in areas considered to be socially deprived not affluent. Many of the homes were low income families where some, if not all the adults did not work but that never stopped the parents responding well to the annual request for produce. Cook always enjoyed showing off her bread-making skills by producing the harvest loaf which was in pride of place in the display.

However, over the years we noticed a change. It would only be the younger pupils who would have a gift and the older children did not seem to have that same sense of participation to come forward to put your item on the stage watched by admiring parents.

A number of charities realised the potential of this bounty and on one occasion we decided to collect for Romanian orphans. The idea was that we would collect dried packet goods or tinned food which would be boxed up and shipped out en masse. The staff and I thought it would appeal to everyone because after all we all have something in the cupboard we could give don’t we?

We realised as these items came in, that some parents had taken the opportunity to give away items that had long ago reached their ‘sale by’ date! We also had some very strange interpretations of ‘dried goods’! However, it did get more of the children involved.

The ‘parade’ of gifts was arranged for the nursery and infant classes to do and despite there being lots of posters, notes home and conversations at classroom doors, we still quite a selection of traditional harvest – cabbages, potatoes, carrots etc. It certainly made a better display than the tins but it gave us a problem. What were we going to do with it?

I wouldn’t have ever thought that would be difficult but none of the local homes or centres wanted it! They had either already received harvest items or just didn’t have the space to store them. We had to do quite a lot of work to find a taker and then we had to deliver it ourselves. It wasn’t quite the experience we had hoped and did mean that the following year staff were quite reluctant to get involved.

However, it is a tradition in schools that I am sure will always happen in some form or another. Looking at the words of ‘Autumn Days’ though, it does speak of a different era when life wasn’t quite so complicated don’t you agree?

This post was prompted by the great team over at  the Guardian Teacher Network. They have an amazing array of resources, news and articles so do pop over and have a look at the goodies!

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