Visiting farms increases self-esteem and broadens the curriculum

Resource: Case studies Age: Secondary

Humphrey Perkins High School in Leicestershire says visits to Manor Farm Long Whatton have increased self-esteem, underpinned the school’s approach to Year 7 skills-based learning, and helped broaden the curriculum on the whole. Deputy Head Joy Clapham, Head of Humanities Kate Hopkinson and pupils at the school, Jess and Dan, talk us through the benefits of the school’s strong farm link.

Describe your farm link – which students have got involved and how have you built it into your school year?

Taking learning beyond school with our visits to Manor Farm Long Whatton has simply been transforming. Pictures and pupil feedback highlight the wonder and enjoyment of seeing another side of life: getting to know a farming family, adopting and naming a calf (now called Manor Farm Keisha), preparing and making fresh bread, sharing knowledge of landscapes and habitats. Memorable learning is learning for life and delivering a lamb last week will be unforgettable.

The farm visits have underpinned our approach to Year 7 mentoring and skills-based learning for 2010-11. Every Wednesday, for six weeks in autumn and spring, a mentor group spend the morning on the farm. On Thursdays, groups create their farm presentation and blog, with small groups of pupils sharing the news with every other mentor group before the next farm visit. In doing so, the pupils experience farming cycles as they happen on the farm. Prior to a visit, pupils review their own risk assessment and help to plan the day.

(Joy Clapham, Deputy Head)

What has your experience of the farm been – what hands-on activities have you got involved with and how have the students reacted?

Students have enjoyed grinding wheat to make flour. The opportunity to make bread themselves was a fascinating learning experience. Understanding the process from start to finish, and making the link between growing wheat and making bread, has helped them understand the importance of food provenance. All the pupils have enjoyed coming back to school with warm bread, with the Manor Farm staff working flat out to make sure the bread was out the oven by the time we were due to leave!

During the spring visits pupils got to watch lambing and were given the opportunity to handle the lambs, helping to pen together sheep with their new born lambs. This experience has developed the students’ understanding of where food comes from and how farming contributes to the landscape, deepening their sense of local history. It has inspired many of the pupils to visit more farms, and Manor Farm’s shop. Students have learnt that organic food tastes great and is healthier.

(Kate Hopkinson, Head of Humanities and farm-visits organiser)

Are there certain students who have especially benefited from the experience – how has it affected them and their behaviour?

The farm visits have provided pupils with a voice. Skills-based and creative learning can be seen to transform relationships and behaviour. The farming experience is a great leveller. There is nothing like walking through mud to remind you of who you are. It has demanded concentration and new skills from pupils. We have seen “a third dimension” of engagement and reflection that has increased the self esteem and contributions from pupils who may in other settings be marginalised. Pupil voice has been heard internationally as people engage with us on our blog.

(Joy Clapham)

Has there been a highlight or an especially memorable moment on the farm?

Each group has enjoyed bringing warm fresh bread back into school. A stand out moment for Beacon 3 was the opportunity to see lambs being delivered. One child even had the privilege of delivering a lamb herself, an opportunity she will never forget. The whole group came back smiling after witnessing the joy of new life.

Jess says: "The lambing was very exciting and educational. It taught us important lessons about the cycle of life as we saw lambs being born and one dying."

How have the farm visits made a difference to your school?

The farm visits are an important example of transformational learning at Humphreys. World class learning demands free thinking and intelligent solutions. We consider it part of our whole school approach to healthy living and life skills. Our farm visit is a valuable trigger for wider thinking about the curriculum, underpinning our approaches to skills-based learning in Humanities, Food and Personal Development. We expect this to gather momentum in year two. It has been important to have full commitment to the farm visit initiative at every level of school life. For example all staff have been expected to staff the trip.

(Joy Clapham)

Have you got to know the farmer?

Graeme has been really helpful, explaining carefully and answering students’ questions. His enthusiasm and sense of humour has encouraged everyone to get involved and enjoy visiting the farm. Our students all agree that Graeme can really talk to the students on their level and that he understands them.

(Kate Hopkinson)

Dan says "Graeme was really funny, and taught us so much in a way that we can easily understand"

What (if any) have the challenges been with the farm visits?

The only challenge I can think of was trying to find enough first aid trained staff to come on the trips. It would be helpful if the staff at the farm had a first aid certificate. Without the funding from the Food for Life partnership it would have been difficult for the school to absorb the cost of the transport.

What has been the best thing about the visits for you as a teacher?

The visits to Manor Farm have enabled the students to make the link between the food on their plate and the countryside. A growing interest in food provenance has encouraged our pupils to make healthy choices. Our students enjoy the opportunity to witness crops grow and watch farm animals kept in a humane way. Many of us are looking forward to visiting the farm shop to buy locally sourced and organic produce. It has inspired students to develop their understanding of the countryside. Students who struggle in an academic environment have blossomed on the farm and enjoyed the space and freedom it offers.

The farm visits have many cross curricular links: it directly feeds into our Year 7 Humanities lessons on “Healthy Living”; it links to RE lessons on animal cruelty and farming methods. It develops our students understanding of food and food production in Design Technology food modules. It fosters self esteem and confidence. Students have developed communication skills, through the sharing of ideas in their presentations to other mentor groups and the blog on the school website.

(Kate Hopkinson)

Jess says: "It is an amazing experience that I will never forget; it will stay with me forever."


The Food for Life Partnership is a network of schools and communities across England committed to transforming food culture. Together we are revolutionising school meals, reconnecting children and young people with where their food comes from, and inspiring families to grow and cook food.

Big Lottery Fund

Soil Association Focus on Food Garden Organic Health Education Trust Royal Society for Public Health logo

© Food for Life Partnership 2013
Legal information - Accessibility