South West Education Conference 2011

The Conference, held at The Sawmill, Tyntesfield, on a mild spring day, was attended by 17 delegates from six counties.

The first speaker, Shaun Cheeseman, the Healthy Schools Co-ordinator for North Somerset, outlined how the Healthy Schools Programme was a Government funded national initiative that started in 2000. Sadly the funding ceases later this year. The scheme resulted in a range of
cross curriculum benefits. In addition, OFSTED were keen to look at the extent to which pupils in schools adopted healthy lifestyles and the setting up and running of Gardening Clubs was a useful way to gain the evidence.

The Healthy Schools Plus programme, a further initiative, was introduced as a pilot scheme in the south west. Under this scheme, schools set their own targets and decided on their outcomes.

Other initiatives that are available to schools include The Soil Association’s Food for Life programme which has helped to bring about a change of thinking in the provision and content of school meals. The criteria necessary to achieve this award are organised into bronze, silver and gold awards. A local initiative is the Green Champions School whereby representatives from schools in North Somerset and the local education authority are working together. Examples of various initiatives in local schools were given and illustrated how teachers, pupils and parents have worked together to create vegetable gardens and outdoor classrooms.

The second speaker, Janet Lamb, Deputy Head of Yatton Infant School and Year 5 teacher, described the difficulties that often beset schools when trying to set up gardens. The Centenary Garden at the school had been designed and created by the pupils. A ‘Bring a Bulb’ day, requests for spare shrubs and plants, and seeking sponsorship ensured the establishment of this garden.

Photos: Wendy Pollard

Sadly for all concerned, the garden was subsequently built over but, within the last few years, a new garden has been designed and created by the pupils. Close links have been fostered with the local Horticultural Society which has resulted in a supply of plants and advice to the school. Unfortunately, the garden has recently been vandalised and so work has to begin again on recreating the garden.

Our afternoon talk was by Annabel Smith and Katy Laidlaw who are involved with supporting and delivering educational activities for the National Trust at Tyntesfield. They described the Guardianship Scheme, started in 1989, whereby the NT works in partnership with local schools. Under this scheme a school takes ownership of one area on a NT property. At Tyntesfield, this has been the kitchen garden and pupils come in on a regular basis to cultivate and care for their crops. Other education initiatives for schools were described, including the Digital Photography project, Plant Hunters/Mini Beasts and Creative Writing inspired by the Gardens.

The session finished with a couple of practical activities to help illustrate what the NT offers. Delegates went into the Rose Garden to take photographs that conveyed the spirit of Tyntesfield. Also, we were asked to write haiku poems which again reflected the mood of the Victorian estate and which was part of the NT Creative Writing scheme.
Juliet Wilmot chaired the discussion period that centred on an exchange of information on education matters within the respective county gardens trusts.

Finally, thanks to Lesley Gallant, Wendy Pollard, Mike Huggett and Alan Kempton, all of whom helped make the day a success.

Ros Delany