5 top tips for starting your own school farm

Donna Ashlee

Donna Ashlee is an assistant principal at Brockhill Park Performing Arts College. She is responsible for areas including raising the aspiration and attainment of the More Able cohort and leadership of the school’s working farm. As a farmer’s wife and daughter, she is passionate about the benefits outdoor learning bring, food security issues and where food comes from, sustainability and the link to children’s health. In 2017 Brockhill Farm won the Bayer FACE Future of Farming Champion Award.

Follow @DonnaAshlee1


Website: www.farmgarden.org.uk/school-farms-network Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Images courtesy of Brockhill Park Performing Arts College. Images courtesy of Brockhill Park Performing Arts College.

Brockhill Park Performing Arts College is a large Secondary school sat up above the Cinque Port of Hythe, overlooking the English Channel. Every morning Brockhill students arrive at school dressed smartly in blazers and gather in friendship groups, some in the playground, others in the canteen - but that is where the similarities with other schools end.

The school prides itself on its farm, which is a working farm and home to beef cattle – a suckler herd with calves, allowing students to see the whole lifecycle from artificial insemination to birth, and ultimately to finished beef and into the school’s own Farm Shop – and a flock of ewes, which lamb each spring, plus free-range hens and a small menagerie of furries.

The Brockhill Farm has found real success partly through embedding its ethos throughout the whole school curriculum. Here is how they did it:

1. Engage the school staff

Farm Fortnight is an annual curriculum event. Every department in the school is challenged to teach one lesson on the farm using the farm as a stimulus. Some departments have taken this one step further, and have built in schemes of work that focus entirely upon the use of the farm. For example, Design Technology have a bird feeder innovation challenge that is taught yearly, whilst the Maths department have embedded a series of Maths challenges around the farm. There’s always lots going on during the fortnight – typically lambing ewes, calving and hatching chicks.

2. Make it part of the curriculum

The Great Outdoors programme of study (GO) was developed as an enrichment programme for all Key Stage 3 students. GO encourages students to learn through outdoor experiences, which removes them from the traditional book teacher-led learning styles, by encouraging hands-on, practical work.

Topics in the GO course include:

‘Reaping the Harvest’

In this lesson, students learn about the ‘grain train’ - the science behind the food, types of bread, and how bread is made, and they get to make a simple soda bread in the lesson.

‘Sausage Sale’

This exercise is based around pig production. Students visit the school farm pigs and analyse the accommodation and feeding. Students design a new logo for the popular ‘Brilliant British Brockhill Bangers’ made from Brockhill pork, and the winning design is reproduced and used in Sausage Sales held in the school’s Farm Shop. Students also get involved with the promotion and running of the sale.

3. Engage teenagers

The school’s Young Farmers Club is incredibly popular, and is run democratically by the students for the students through a club committee. They run regular social events, including Halloween and Christmas parties, and events to engage the public including Open Farm Sunday. The main purpose of the club is to teach animal husbandry and show technique, and the members enjoy showing the school’s livestock at agricultural shows in the South East.

4. Extend your provision

Following consultation with local Primary teachers, Brockhill developed and wrote a set of six curriculum-linked lessons for Primary students, all of which include an outdoor activity for students to get their hands dirty, and an inside one to develop learning further. A favourite session is Moo & Make for KS1, looking at variation and species of farm animals, and how they have adapted for survival. This session includes a farm tour, introduction to animals and a craft session making animal masks to take home.

5. Make it your USP

The school farm is a fantastic marketing tool - the farm makes Brockhill stand out from the crowd. Everyone loves to see children and animals together, and there are lots of beneficial influences on behaviour and wellbeing, with a positive impact on the education and lives of young people. Promoting this through photographs, social media, prospectuses and press releases has been enormously beneficial to Brockhill, and I’d encourage any school to explore the idea of starting their own farm further.

Want to receive cutting-edge insights from leading educators each week? Sign up to our Community Update and be part of the action!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"