Times have changed.
No longer the school harvest festival involves rows of children ‘singing’ “We plough the fields and scaaaaaaaatter, the good seed on the laaaaaand” or “Raiiise the glori’us ‘arvest ‘ome” with parents seeing the event as the perfect opportunity to palm off the overgrown marrow or glut of other home-grown vegetables to some unsuspecting person ‘in need’.
Tomorrow is the last day of ‘bring your harvest gifts into school’. Marrows are not allowed. This is the battle of the preserved goods. Competition is intense. There is skill involved. New parents to the school are not yet indoctrinated in the ways of the shopping required for the best possible harvest contribution.
Why? Well, because our harvest contributions are judged by quantity. Not quality. The prize (yes, prize, this year it’s a treasure chest full of chocolate coins) is awarded to the class who bring in the greatest number of products (or ‘projects’ as the Sealion Keeper* calls them). There is a running total kept every day by the office staff and obviously the opportunities for numeracy lessons are plentiful.
But the pressure – oh the pressure! To send in as many products as possible (obviously equal numbers for each child, you’ve got to be fair) without losing your store cupboard contents, a large chunk of the housekeeping money or the respect of your child is quite a challenge. The children are coming home with a running total each afternoon – they know where their class is in the league table – this is, to put it quite frankly, war.
Which is why I spent last Wednesday afternoon trawling around Sainsburys trying to find the maximum number of products for the minimum spend – noting that the general assumption made by the merchandisers that those who are buying the ‘Basic’ ranges in the supermarkets are, well, short. Or extremely flexible.
Didn’t do badly though – 12 items each per child (not that they could lift the bags), total spend for all 24, less than £7.75.
So, tomorrow, when “all is safely gathered in” we’ll get the final result. We’ll see which teachers are quietly fist-pumping in their store cupboards and which children have chocolate coins melting gently in their sticky hands as they come out at the end of the day. The battle will be over for another year and the parents have 12 months to hone their shopping skills further.
Oh, and our young homeless in St Albans will have enough food to see them safely into the winter storms and hopefully fill their tummies with some (relatively) nutritious, hot food and help them believe that there are people out there who do care.
Times may have changed but the underlying message is still there – making life better for those who need a bit of a hand, and if we can get our children round to that way of thinking, maybe the odd battle is a good idea. What do you think??
* The Cheetah Keeper’s sister has decided her chosen career path is that of Sealion Keeper at Whipsnade Zoo and therefore wishes to be referred to as the Sealion Keeper on the blog from now on. Who am I to argue?