Resource: Case study
Adrian Marsh, headteacher at St Andrew's CE Primary School in Shropshire explains how real-life learning on the farm has impacted on the school’s curriculum and results.
"At St. Andrews we have always believed that children should learn in a real-life contextualised learning environment, so our school has developed very strong links with a local farm to provide that opportunity.
We can cover every aspect of the National Curriculum using Food for Life Partnership (FFLP) focused work and the development of our food culture. The children regularly go to the farm to complete their work and it provides a real purpose for them. They love being there, really enjoy the work and will often take projects a step further themselves - so it’s child led education too.
A great example of this is the ‘large numbers project’. Children need to learn about the use of mathematics to solve everyday problems with area, weight and money. At the farm, they plant sufficient broad bean plants to generate thousands of beans. Children decide where they are to plant the crop, including the numbers of plants within a square metre; weather conditions and estimated wastage.
At harvest time they assess how successful their decisions have been and beans are picked and processed. Children can work out the time needed to harvest; number of boxes needed; sorting procedures for an organic box system and potential profit margins. They have a real reason for recording their results - advertising their sales and creating a growing diary. The project uses language, mathematics, physical and emotional health, science and technology and place and time to help children develop towards well-being, engagement, empowerment, autonomy, respect, citizenship and interdependence.
At the same time we joined the FFLP our school also became involved with the Educational Psychology Service, examining ways in which we could improve strategies to include children with differing educational needs.
We have developed an alternative curriculum using the work on the farm and we’ve seen children with learning difficulties and children who struggle with the normal academic curriculum really blossom. Because the work is practical, kinesthetic and visual, children keep that knowledge firmly in place and develop it further throughout their school lives.
When we assess pupils’ progress, we can use the work children do on the farm and very often that piece of work is the best piece that child has done all year. So evidence shows we are providing a very rich curriculum, children really are enjoying the work and want to do the best they can. As one pupil said to me, “I like going to the farm because instead of being told information we find it out for ourselves.”
The staff are happy too, they have a sense of purpose, their work is valued and the curriculum doesn’t remain stagnant. Above all, we are addressing the development of children’s current individual needs whilst preparing them for their future roles within society."