Reader Panel - What are the key advantages of becoming a 'growing school'?

HW asked speakers at the RHS Wisley Growing Schools conference what they regarded as the key benefits and barriers of the initiative.

Regional adviser

"It's good for children to get their hands dirty and be outside. However, we must stress that it is key learning time and not play - teachers must have a clear objective in their lessons.

"Growing must be a strong focus in the curriculum and not a soft option. It can also interlink with maths because it gives children the chance to calculate the costs incurred and the profits that can be made through what they are growing."

Anne Gunning, West Midlands Regional Adviser, RHS Wisley

Team leader

"It shows the connection between our food and where it comes from, the reality of how things get to the supermarket and the amount of work that goes into that produce. There are lots of health benefits too and it can be stimulating for children.

"For teachers who might be scared of the red tape of trips, going into the school grounds can be a good thing. It makes maths and science real and most kids love messing around in the dirt."

Sean Harkin, Team Leader herbaceous ornamentals, RHS Wisley

Strategic adviser

"There is a huge range of benefits - knowledge and understanding as well as personal and social skills development.

"There are also tangible links to the community - for example, selling vegetables grown by the children in the gardens at the school fair.

"There is huge demand from schools to do this. It also helps to get the families involved with what their child is learning, which can help them develop."

Anne Hunt, Strategic Public Engagement Adviser, Natural England

Education chief

"There are multiple educational and health-related benefits. Growing food can encourage children to eat something different and from a long-term sustainable point of view it develops an understanding of where food comes from. It's also a great way of engaging parents.

"It should be part of life skills, talking to people who are older than you, and working on local allotments or selling vegetables gives you that. And it's fun."

Colette Bond, Head of Education, Garden Organic.

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