We secured grants for outdoor learning and greening our environment

Ann Edwards CofE Primary is a large village school of 250 pupils, with a strong focus on outdoor learning and wellbeing. After so many of our inter-school competitions, day trips and residentials were put on hold during the pandemic, we couldn’t wait to restart these activities in September. We applied to the Ernest Cook Trust (a national funder local to our school) for grant support – and were delighted to receive £500 for transport costs to facilitate two trips. We took our Key Stage 2 classes to the Badminton Estate in Gloucestershire, and our Year 6s on a week-long residential to PGL in Beam House, Exeter

The Ernest Cook Trust supports learning from the land and environmental engagement. Its application process is quick and simple and the grant we received meant that every single one of our pupils in Key Stage 2 could experience learning outside the classroom in two fantastic and very different settings. The Trust also offers grants to support disadvantaged young people with an outdoor week of learning (the OWL Initiative), as well as running an Everything Outdoors grants scheme

We had further good news when I was able to secure a £500 grant to support our existing Forest School provision with further resources and training. This came from the outdoor learning and play charity Learning Through Landscapes. The application process was again straightforward and initially involved completing questions around the demographic make-up of our school, such as the number of Pupil Premium children, and those on Free School Meals. There were questions around our current provision, what we would do with the money if successful, and how it would enhance our current provision.

The training we received was centered around our agreed topic of ‘how to integrate gardening into the curriculum’. It was delivered outdoors at our school site and around 30 staff took part. A professional gardener and florist delivered the two-hour session, providing lots of useful tips and advice around what time of year certain plants should be planted, as well as easy-to-implement strategies to keep on top of the garden area.

As part of the grant, Learning Through Landscapes also provided handouts and follow-up information, including lesson plans and fun ideas. We were able to mix and match resources from different product catalogues, allowing us to choose items that would appeal to a broad range of ages. These included seeds, watering cans, spatulas and nets.

Our School Council (comprising representatives from each year group from EYFS to Year 6, as well as our Year 4 teacher and PSHE lead) were delighted with all the new equipment as we run a gardening club that is attended by children across the school. Pupils have already enjoyed using the resources and planting the flowers and seeds, and are waiting in anticipation for spring growth.

The School Council also has a focus on implementing environmentally-friendly practices. At the start of this academic year, a Year 5 council rep – Lily Hopkins – spoke to our milk carton supplier to ask if the plastic packaging and straws that were supplied could be changed to environmentally-friendly alternatives. As a result of her efforts, the supplier agreed that our school will pilot a new scheme using recyclable straws and more environmentally-friendly packaging.

Lily also got together with our site manager and Forest School lead (teaching assistant) to successfully apply for a Woodland Trust grant that saw 500 trees delivered to our school. The Woodland Trust is giving hundreds of thousands of trees to schools and communities, with the aim of getting more than one million planted to help reach the UK’s target of becoming net-zero by 2050.

The trees ranged from silver birch to field maple and dogwood. To meet the application criteria, all we had to do was ensure that the trees would be planted on our school grounds. We’re not short of outdoor space so this was straightforward.

When the trees arrived, we asked Bosch Rexroth – an international drive and control technology company based in our village – for help with planting them. The company gives all its staff a community day each year, and was kindly able to provide a group of volunteers and equipment to help get all trees planted in one day!

We were lucky with the weather, and school staff and volunteers from across the community all joined the planting effort. The trees are planted around the border of our school grounds, so the local community can see them grow and develop. Many pupils, especially the Key Stage 2 children, enjoy watering the trees on a weekly basis, and seeing them grow. And we’re getting lots of compliments about how well presented our school grounds are.

  • Kevin Parker, school business manager, Ann Edwards CofE Primary School, South Cerney, Cirencester (250 pupils)

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