Getting businesses to invest in children's futures

Resource: Case study Age: Primary
Getting businesses to invest in childrens futures

Birchwood Primary School near Ipswich in Suffolk built a new vegetable garden from scratch in twenty weeks with the help of the Community Payback scheme and donations from local businesses. And all without dipping into school funds. 

What they’ve achieved

Built on a patch of wasteland next to the school, Birchwood’s 420m² vegetable garden has ten raised beds – each named after trees; a large polytunnel; a potting shed equipped with "every tool imaginable", seeds, aprons, gloves and a purple wheelbarrow; and a "luxury hotel" for insects, complete with solar panel and lights to attract moths and other pollinating insects. In its first few weeks, broad beans and radishes were already peaking through, and the children were able harvest pea shoots.

School governor Paul Firman MBE says all this was possible without delving into the school budget thanks to the magical words "school and children".

"A letter was sent out explaining what the school wanted to achieve and the importance of getting children interested in gardening and understanding where their food came from, and that this was going to be part of the curriculum – Sow it – Tend it – Harvest it – Eat it – Sell it. The response was amazing – the local pub, solicitors, accountants, sign makers, garden centres, seed companies and a local hotel/restaurant along with the local village magazine all “bought into” the project."

As the garden was being built, a new atrium roof was being erected nearby, and Paul approached the builders to ask if he could collect the scrap metal that was lying around. They said yes and Paul returned from the local scrap metal dealers with £330 to go towards the garden. Martlesham Monthly Magazine has also contributed a whopping £500.

Then there’s the Community Payback scheme, which supplied a hardworking, supervised labour force. The team worked tirelessly over twenty weeks, clearing away gorse, laying paving slabs, building the raised beds, potting shed, gates and picket fence. All the school had to do was supply the materials. The Community Payback team turned up every Sunday for six hours. They weren’t allowed to work when the children were at school but the children made posters to thank them.

What they say

"Headteacher Steve Cloke had a vision for a school vegetable garden that every child could be part of, and make gardening and producing vegetables an integral part of the curriculum. The nationally recognised Food for Life Partnership fitted the bill perfectly.

"We’re an eco-friendly school, and we felt it was necessary that the children learnt to grow their own vegetables. It’s part of the whole ethos that we’ve got here – trying to get the children eating and experiencing different things."

The difference it makes

Community Payback likes long term, sustainable projects and schools tick all of the boxes. The offenders are rewarded by seeing an end result like this vegetable garden, which will give a lot of pleasure to a lot of children for many years to come.

Not only that, but Milsoms at Kesgrave Hall in Ipswich, a four star hotel and restaurant, has arranged for chefs to cook the vegetables grown by the children, and the children are invited in to the restaurant to watch the chefs in action. Milsoms will purchase vegetables from the school – pea shoots will soon be coming their way!

Paul Firman adds: "This extraordinary project has brought local businesses closer to the school and they are sure they can build on this relationship. The children will now have a gardening experience, which hopefully they will take through to adulthood. There is high footfall of parents in this area of the school and it is already provoking lots of interest.

"You reap what you grow - this is an investment in the children’s future."


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.

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