WORKING WITH SCHOOLS
In 1995 The Wiltshire Gardens Trust gave their first grant and we have been helping schools ever since. In the 19 years that we have been visiting schools we have given grants of over £55,000. In 2004 we started a scheme to give Junior Bulldog tools and to date we have given these to a value of over £4,500. The first grant that we gave amounted to £50 for two large barrel planters and the last one this year has been £400 for a tool shed. We began with a very small budget which over the years has grown and we now have a maximum grant of £500 for any one request.
Our aim is to help with all hard landscaping, timber for raised beds, tools, water butts, poly tunnels, compost bins, sheds etc. The only items we feel we cannot help with are ponds (we leave these to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust) and plants. The latter is because they can be neglected and die or if the garden becomes unused then the plants are the first to suffer. Many times over the years we have revisited a school and told them where their garden is under a bed of wasteland but when parting the nettles, there is the garden all ready to go again. The grant money comes from the membership fee and without our members all our work would disappear.
We are here to support and encourage those that are interested in developing their grounds for the benefit of the children, teachers and parents. We will visit any school that wishes to design, create or improve an area in their grounds for a garden and we can advise on the use of their garden as an outdoor classroom and a teaching aid in helping to deliver the National Curriculum. We visit when invited, discuss plans and ideas and then ask the school to fill in a simple form which details their costs and how they plan the maintenance of their garden. Most important of all is how the children are to be involved in the gardening and whether every class is to have an input or will they run it as a club. We then decide on what grant we can give them and when sending this we ask them to sign a paper that states we can return in a year.
When visiting again we check that they have used our grant as proposed and we have a plaque to present to them which just explains that we have enjoyed helping them. Only twice have we had to ask for our grant money to be returned because it has not been used as stated. We will accept another grant request after two years and in some cases we have given 5 grants over the 19 years with many schools developing better and better garden sites as time goes on which is a joy to see.
We produce a newsletter ‘The Wheelbarrow’ which is delivered to schools each term.
After 20 years we are again concentrating on trying to get schools to use their gardens in the teaching of most subjects in The National Curriculum.
We have found the electronic delivery of our newsletter The Wheelbarrow is not working very well so we sent out a hard copy to all Swindon schools last term to jog their memories on how we can help. It has brought in more queries.
We have 27 simple information sheets on most gardening topics which are free to all schools.
In 1996 we planned and hosted the first area education meeting for all South West County Garden Trusts. For some Trusts it was the beginning of them getting into schools in their counties and for others to find out how we were working in our schools.
This year, 2016, the South West Education Meeting was held at Cannington College hosted by Somerset. The whole conference was centred on how we might try to reach Secondary schools in our counties. The first speaker was the community outreach adviser for the RHS in the SW. She has an enormous area to cover and sadly had not met with any of the County Gardens Trusts so we were able to explain how we try to help schools. We are all well aware of the difficulties of getting teachers and careers advisers interested in horticulture and she has suffered the same disappointment with horticulture never entering the school tables or results. Her experience is very like ours with the perception that ‘gardening’ is for children with special needs or for older people.
We had some students from Cannington College who spoke of the high science content of their courses and the second speaker was their tutor who said there were many unfilled placements in all types of horticulture jobs in Britain with his college unable to fill their various courses. It was clear that we need to work hard to promote our subject at The Higher Education level and The National Curriculum.
Here is an extract from a recent letter received:
Dear Mrs Wilmot and the Wiltshire Gardens Trust
Firstly thank you once again for the wonderful grant that you gave us, which has allowed us to develop and provide new opportunities in the garden for the children. We have also been very lucky in that the school have raised some money to buy a polytunnel which has been fantastic.
The garden is beautiful at the moment and all our raised beds are in and have grown, and still growing, lots of lovely vegetables. The flowers have bloomed and provided so much colour and attracted lots of bees.
I wondered whilst it looks so good if you would like to come and visit the garden one day? If you would, please feel free to contact me and arrange a time.