School Farms Network Conference and Awards hosted by the RAU

Schools from across the UK came together virtually at the weekend to celebrate the benefits of incorporating outdoor learning and school farms into education.

The fourth School Farms Network Conference and Awards was hosted by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and run in partnership between the RAU and the School Farms Network (SFN), part of Social Farms & Gardens, which consists of more than 116 school farms across the UK.

The event, which is usually hosted at the RAU campus, had to be held virtually this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Liam Dowson, Head of Student Recruitment at the RAU and one of the organisers of this year’s conference, said: “The School Farms Awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of schools, teachers and students who have farms included as part of their education provision, and the diversity of the types and uses of school farms and land-based education across the UK.

“Whilst it’s a shame we weren’t able to welcome everyone onto our beautiful campus, we are delighted that we were able to go ahead virtually this year. It was great to have so many people join us online and huge congratulations to all the very worthy winners.”

The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Growing People, Plants and Animals’ and the conference is an opportunity for school farms staff to meet, share best practice, update their knowledge and promote new opportunities.

In addition to a range of practitioner presentations, there were School Farm videos, a choice of practical and management workshops, and plenty of opportunity for discussion. Speakers this year included Lord Donald Curry of Kirkharle CBE, former School Farms’ student Briony Balcombe, and current School Farm manager Lottie Matthews, from the North School in Ashford, Kent.

Welcoming delegates to the conference, Professor Joanna Price, Vice-Chancellor of the RAU, said: “The RAU’s mission is to ‘equip a new generation to thrive through change’. The unprecedented times of the past year have shown that our courses, and our graduates, are needed more than ever and we’re excited to support, and develop, the next generation of students to thrive through change and help find the solutions to the global issues we all face.

“I know that this is a value that we share with you and it is one of the reasons we’re so passionate to work with you and support the role of school farms. Not only can they be of incredible value to the education and welfare of individual students, but they also play such a valuable role in growing the understanding of our land-based industries.”

Congratulations to the 2021 award categories and winners:

  • School Farm Student of the Year Award – Amber Powell, Kingsmead School, Staffordshire
  • School Farm Leader of the Year Award – Marion Arthur, Ramsey Grammar School, Isle of Man
  • Best use of the School Farm during the Pandemic Award – Nightingale Community Academy (Tom’s Farm), London
  • School Farm Environmental Impact Award – Gloverspiece School, Droitwich
  • Best Short School Farm Tour Video – Brymore Academy, Somerset
  • Overall Best School Farms Project – Nightingale Community Academy (Tom’s Farm), London

Professor Price concluded: “I’d like to thank and congratulate all our delegates, and particularly the winners, for the brilliant work they are all continuing to do to support our next generation. They are making a real difference both to individual students and to our shared future.”

Find out more about the School Farms Network just visit https://www.farmgarden.org.uk/school-farms-network

Any schools or colleges interested in working with the RAU can contact us at [email protected]. #SchoolFarms21