The UK’s 100th school farm at Bebington High Sports College, a co-operative school in Wirral, Merseyside is launched on March 12, with help from a Coronation Street legend turned award-winning cheesemaker.
Sean Wilson played the character of Martin Platt on the ITV series for 21 years until he left and set up the Saddleworth Cheese Company. A supporter of local food, he will give a speech at the event, which is a significant landmark in the rise of school farms, just a few years after numbers had slumped and many had closed. The transformation is due to a wider recognition of the huge benefits of school farms in raising educational attainment, as well as a fresh emphasis on educating children about food.
In the past three years more than 30 UK schools have developed new farm units, but this is the tip of the iceberg. The School Farms Network (SFN), which supports and encourages school farms, say more than 100 schools (including primary, secondary, special needs and pupil referral units) are actively exploring the rearing of livestock.
The college is aiming to use the farm to produce organic meat and vegetables for use in school dinners and in food technology, with any surplus being sold locally. As a result students will have a greater understanding of the work and care that is needed to produce food as well as the economics of running a business. The project will also educate students about reducing food waste and good animal husbandry.
Head teacher of Bebington High Sports College Brian Jordan said: “Our vision is to help young people today to know where food is sourced, how it is grown and the care needed to ensure the animals have a good life before they end up on our table. Our farm project aims to educate all our students to care about animals, food production and ultimately themselves and the environment. In addition students will gain useful qualifications for life and their future careers. I would like to thank the Co-operative, Tesco, Wirral Farmers market and Brantano for their continued financial support.”
The launch of Bebington’s farm demonstrates a growing understanding among teachers of what a great learning resource school farms can be. Students can experience the natural world around them and outdoor learning activities are integrated into everyday teaching practices. Evidence suggests those who struggle in the classroom environment respond well to the farm environment, learning not just about subjects relating to the curriculum, but also life skills, team work and nurturing.
New and established farms are given support by the School Farms Network (SFN). Co-ordinated by the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, it provides advice and information for new and existing school farms.
SFN Co-ordinator Ian Egginton-Metters said: “Educational attainment has been shown to increase in schools where a farm is in operation. In addition to the strengthening of wellbeing and citizenship that outdoor team work generates, the farm can also be used as a hands-on resource for all teachers.”
Growing Education - School Farms Conference
The second school farms conference takes place on July 5-6, 2013 at Phoenix High School, Shepherds Bush, London. The conference is aimed at policymakers, Head Teachers and heads of departments, plus existing and would-be practitioners, and representatives of the farming and voluntary sector agencies. For more information go to: www.schoolfarms.org.uk