Head of education Ruth Taylor said: I think we could get more help from the industry. If the schools could get plants donated from local garden centres that would be good. It is that sort of thing they really need help with just to get them started.
The industry probably doesn’t really think about the benefits of starting children young and getting them interested in gardening through their lives. Their eyes are probably more on the money.
Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins, who launched the campaign at St Leonard’s Primary School in London last week, added: Sainsbury’s and Tesco make lots of money and I’m looking to big companies to put in more effort. The potential of plants in schools is great but what effort are the big companies making?
A Tesco representative said it had no school gardening schemes at present but planned to set one up: We are in the very early stages of a project at a school or schools in Hertfordshire involving a grant of several thousand pounds.
Sainsbury’s said: This is not something we currently do.
Westland marketing manager Keith Nicholson’s company supplies flower and vegetable seeds through the RHS. He said: The national curriculum includes why things grow and through this we can be at the start of young people growing veg and flowers. It also brightens the environment.
Most people in the industry would like to do more but one of the big issues is cost — getting to everyone, all the teachers and children, is very difficult. We use the RHS be-cause it has the infrastructure and ability to get to a good proportion of our schools. But there are different attitudes to gardening in schools —some are dedicated to sport and gardening is dependent on the enthusiasm of the teachers.
A school is about to open phase one of its purpose-built horticultural training centre.
Wingfield Comprehensive School in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, now has a large fully operational polytunnel, a 20m greenhouse, nine large raised beds and large composting bays, and has planted a new native hedge to give wind protection to the crops and attract wildlife.
Head of horticultural operations Mick Goldenburgh said: It is our intention that we will produce fruit and vegetables for use in food technology lessons and to sell to the local community as well as supplement the school kitchens.