School Farms Network
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Media Coverage grows for School Farms
There has been a springtime bloom of media coverage of school farming. Not only has the BBC produced an online article which is available to view on the BBC website, and there is an audio file of BBC radio's Farming Today featuring school farms, also on the BBC website. also two articles in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, one featuring Phoenix High School in London and the other about the influence of TV chefs on school farming. And Smallholder Magazine created a massive spread devoted to school farms in its April edition.
100th School Farms Officially Launched on 12 March, 2013
Bebington High School Farm in Wirral, Merseyside, became the 100th school farm in the UK when it officially launched in March. This was a remarkable land mark and the tip of the iceberg as the School Farms Network are aware of more than 100 schools (primary, secondary, special needs and Pupil Referall Units) actively exploring the rearing of livestock, so expect to hear of new school farms starting in 2013. For more details Bebington 100th School Farm Release.
School Farms: At The Heart Of Outstanding Schools
This new publication from the School Farms Network is aimed primarily at head teachers and education policy makers to highlight the wide range of benefits and positive effects on learning that school farms can bring to a school, its teachers and students, and the local community. You can find the document here
School Farms Research Document
A new research document called The Living Classroom - School Farms in the UK: A mapping document is now available to download here: School Farms Research Survey
How the School Farms Network was developed
From a low point in 2006, when there were only 66 school farms, the UK now has 100 school farms (the 100th officially launches in March 2013) and a number of schools actively engaged in starting a new one. They are situated throughout the UK but with particular concentration in South East England and the West Midlands. Developing a formal support structure for them has been an objective for some time, and an initial meeting of school farm practitioners was convened in 2004 at Oathall Community College in Haywards Health, West Sussex, to look at the ways in which this could be taken forward.
HRH The Prince of Wales sent a letter of support for the event and emerging network, in which he said: "I could not be more pleased to be supporting this conference to promote school farms and gardens as centres of excellence and to serve as a resource to enrich and enhance the curriculum". The Prince has a particular interest in the education of children about farming and growing and has himself visited several school farms in the past.
As a result of this drive, the School Farms Network (SFN) was set up in 2004. Created jointly by the then Department for Education and Skills (now Department for Education) and the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens. The School Farms Network offers support and assistance to school farms, co-ordinates meetings, produces materials and CPD and facilitates networking.
FCFCG is responsible for co-ordinating the School Farms Network. It offers advice to existing farms and those wishing to start a new school farm (teachers, assistants and parents), including finding a mentor and signposting to specialists.
These meetings are an excellent opportunity for school farm staff and volunteers to swap ideas, gain inspiration from the work of their colleagues and discuss how to stimulate understanding and support for school farms.
SFN publications and information
Booklet: An eight-page leaflet giving details about the work and benefits of school farms has been created by FCFCG and Growing Schools. Called School Farms: a vital resource, the leaflet gives a general background to school farms and highlights the role of the School Farms Network and FCFCG's support.
It also demonstrates the benefits of school farms and contains several case studies of school farms throughout the UK. Anyone interested may receive multiple copies of the leaflet. There is a PDF version available to download below:
E-newsletter: Contains up-to-date information from Network meetings, news stories, information about resources, courses and articles created by school farm practitioners themselves. Please contact Ian if you wish to be added to the mailing list.
Free resource for teachers and schools: A resource was published in July 2007 titled Get Your Hands Dirty to help schools work through the issues involved in developing horticulture and food growing, or considering raising livesctock, in their school grounds. It is free and available via the Growing School website
Help and advice
Charlie Olive, from West Somerset Community College, has been chair of SFN since July 2009. Howard Wood is an FCFCG Fieldworker when he isn't busy running Oathall School Farm and teaching.
Together they have offered to help answer questions and discuss issues with individual school farm staff who contact him. Along with Ian, he will also be available to field enquiries and pursue opportunities to help develop the Network, hands-on farming and horticultural education in schools.