“Our field was a blank, open space with a huge metal fence separating it from the playground. It was a no-go area for little children as older ones would run around playing football. There was nowhere to experience outdoor learning, no habitats to explore, no flowers to examine or fruits to taste. As a school we didn’t take part in many activities within the community and we were, in some areas, quite isolated,” explained Sarah Tarrant.
Sarah created a power point presentation of all the areas that were to be tackled first and held a whole school assembly to discuss with the children their ideas and thoughts. The contribution of the children’s own ideas was crucial as it would be they who would have ownership of the garden.
The aims were to engage the whole school and for parents to work alongside their children, to grow their own produce, reach isolated parents, bring generations together and improve the school grounds while enriching the pupils learning experiences.
The project has been photographed since it started and has provided an important measure of how far the project has come. The school also used the Leeds In Bloom judging criteria as a base to look critically at the garden and ensure improvements are being made year on year.
Sarah said: “Our progress (has been) from Silver, for two years, and now for this year we have achieved Gold status. This has been transferred to the RHS School Garden Awards where we have attained Level 4. This benchmarking scheme gives us ideas of new areas to work on and ways to bring in greater community involvement.”
The project began in 2008 with a work day by Yorkshire Water and was completed by summer 2012. The garden club runs one session after school each week and now the garden is fully open, children and staff use the area throughout the day.
All of the children are now able to use the field and sports still take place. The children and staff have access to two outdoor classrooms, a poly tunnel and numerous planters that are raised for access. There are habitats to explore including a pond, woodland area, orchard, meadow and bird watching area. The school are now involved with the community and no longer feel isolated.
“The photographs really show what a difference the garden has made to the school grounds. For new children they cannot believe that it wasn’t always so and for older children, who return to visit like my son, they comment on how ‘every year it gets better and there’s more’,” commented Sarah.
Head teacher Sarah Graham added: “The school is committed to developing an outdoor curriculum and this is enhanced through the improvements to the school grounds. The new school improvement plan has the development of the outdoor space as one of its priorities. One aspect of this will be to use the outdoor area to support the social, moral, spiritual and cultural curriculum. This will include the children working with the vicar to develop areas for quiet contemplation.”
Since the start of the project, the school have planted over 100 native woodland and fruit trees, a native hedgerow, wildflower meadow, nature pond- which is now a protected site with breeding newts, planted over 10,000 spring bulbs and created a learning space that will last for many years.