South West Education Conference 2014

Working in Partnership – Engaging with Schools

This well attended meeting was held in February at Bicton EaRTH Centre, East Budleigh, Devon, and the theme ‘working in partnership – engaging with schools’ was chosen to illustrate the collaborative way in which the Devon Gardens Trust is now approaching education. It was opened by Gilly Drummond, Association President, who described how the county garden trusts education committees’ hard work over the last thirty years had now ‘come together’; with the introduction of the Small School Task Force and the School Food Plan, she thought their work within education was now on the cusp of a wave!

We learnt of the recently formed Growing Devon Schools Partnership and were introduced to the members who were present: RHS Rosemoor, Paignton Zoo, Devon Composting Network, Growing Together (Community Gardening) CIC, and Ashburton Cookery School – all of whom have been working with schools.

The partnership does not want the good work done by its members working along similar lines to be replicated; the common aim is to inspire and support schools and crucially to help develop the skills and confidence of teachers. Devon Gardens Trust has now decided to give concentrated funding and mentoring support to designated projects in only a small number of schools per year, rather than spreading the funding more thinly over many schools.

A primary teacher from East-the-Water Primary School inspired us with her story of the creation of her school garden from scratch not only with the help of Devon Gardens Trust, but also with the help of the school governors, the South West Counties Allotment Association, The Prince’s Trust, the Environment Agency and South West Water. The teachers were encouraged to use the new garden, to incorporate it into every area of the curriculum and to constantly think about the garden in their lesson plans. The success of what was considered a ‘failing school’ is now celebrated as ‘outstanding’ and the children love it!

As Education coordinator for AGT, I came away determined to find out more about the different agencies who were supporting gardening in schools in our area and to investigate how we might collaborate – but, it has to be said, with a certain envy for other county gardens trusts that are not spread over four district councils as we are!

Cynthia Troup, Education Coordinator