Keats may have thought of autumn as a season of mist and mellow fruitfulness, but that’s not what’s at the top of the minds of millions of school children and students. Autumn is the time when they go back to school or college to get on with studying, the time when holidays are over, when days get shorter and evenings close in earlier.
It is different not only for children, young people and students, but also for a lot of people whose lives are affected by them. Parents have to get back into the routine of the school run or standing by the school gates at the end of the day. Teachers have to face another term of classwork, whether they find it a rewarding joy or the next stressful step to burn-out. In some areas, police and fire brigades may see term-time as the removal of bored children from the streets, diminishing the incidence of arson and casual vandalism.
In this issue of the Webmag, Valerie Jackson looks at the start of term, and offers advice to parents on preparing children for school for the first time. At the other end of childhood, we are reviewing a book which offers advice for students going to university. In between, we have an article about a school in Liverpool which collects cans, and advice about the dangers of headlice, which are readily transmitted at school.
Keith White has often mentioned the importance of the seasons in his column, In Residence. Seasons reflect the changes in the yearly cycle – the new growth in spring, the burgeoning in summer, the mellow fruitfulness and dying back of autumn and the quiescence of winter, as living things cope with the changing heat, light and weather.
Man’s festivals have marked points in these cycles for thousands of years – Christmas succeeding Beltane in the middle of winter, Easter in spring, the Bank Holidays announcing a break from work in the hot days of summer, and early autumn signifying the need to get back down to work. In days when life was rural and people lived off the land, it was the time to get the harvest in, to celebrate harvest-home, to prepare the land for winter and sow the crops for the spring. Now, it is the start of school and college terms, and at work, there are the rounds of conferences and training programmes starting again.
And for Editors, the emails are coming in about the best toys for Christmas, about sponsored Christmas cards. The summer is only just finishing, but already it is not much more than three months to the rush of Christmas. Now what did Keats have to say about that?