Working with Schools

2009 was an interesting year with fewer requests than usual for grants. We were in such demand in 2008 and had rather expected a similar year to follow. When we wrote to schools which had been in touch recently, we reminded them that we were here to help and we received the answer that they were already gardening in their grounds and would we like to come and see. This seems to be the answer to our puzzle as nearly all schools in Wiltshire and Swindon are going strong with vegetable patches springing up on any available spaces.

This is such a good feeling since when we began 15 years ago there were very few schools with gardens. I think we can safely say we have made a huge difference by helping with our advice, enthusiasm and grants along with the general publicity on healthy lifestyles and the grow it, cook it, eat it slogan. This is a great idea to all except some school cooks who are not in favour of mud in their kitchens!
The government keeps changing the rules and regulations within education and this, coupled with the huge increase of risk assessments and police checks, makes us wonder why anyone can be bothered to start a school garden. We really are full of admiration of teachers as they must feel much put upon with paperwork piling up every time these changes are made. Sadly we have seen some very good head teachers taking early retirement as administration has taken over from being with their pupils and teaching in class.

School garden clubs are increasing and can be run in the day or after school. It is always a problem finding a good site in the grounds. Gardens need to be out of the way of ball games and in a sunny position, but if they are ‘tucked’ away then the children cannot use them in the school day, as all pupils have to be able to be seen at all times. We are finding raised beds are often the answer as they are protected from balls and can be gardened in all weathers because feet can be kept dry on hard surfaces.

In 2009, our two main themes which we encouraged in our newsletter, The Wheelbarrow, were firstly to try some of Darwin’s experiments in the garden to celebrate his bicentenary and secondly the making of a Tudor Garden to celebrate Henry VIII’s 500th anniversary of his accession to the throne. We hope they had fun with both and we look forward to hearing all about their achievements when visiting this year.
Congratulations go to Hannah Clegg who won the RHS Great British Garden Competition, which was to design a garden to go into the Olympic park in 2012. She is a pupil at Sherston Primary school near Malmesbury and we were able to give them a grant last year which helped to get them started with a school garden and perhaps gave Hannah some encouragement.

I know that schools are so appreciative of the help we can give them. This is entirely thanks to your subscriptions. The letters we get are so rewarding and some of these are always on show at our AGM, should you want to read them.

Juliet Wilmot