Pupils at the school, one of nearly 800 that applied for packs of 30 saplings, planted silver birch, rowan and hazel trees in the school grounds. Apply here.
On the day the Government was criticised by tree growers for its "chaotic" approach to tree grants which is leading to millions of trees being burnt, Truss said: "Children across the country will be able to grow, learn about and identify native trees including birch, hawthorn and hazel, giving the chance to understand and connect with nature and make their school grounds and neighbourhoods cleaner and greener.
"Woodland cover is at its highest since the 14th century, and it’s vital that children feel part of our natural history, connected to the environment in their day-to-day lives at school and in their communities. I am delighted that so many teachers have embraced the offer of free trees for their schools to create inspiring outdoor learning spaces for pupils.
Woodland Trust chief executive Beccy Speight said: "These children might never otherwise get a chance to plant a tree, but with this additional funding from Defra they’re going to get that chance. And that’s vitally important. We know from our research it’s a memory they’ll treasure for years to come, and often starts their relationship off with the natural world and all the benefits that brings. This scheme offers schools that have found it hard in the past a new way to plant trees and bring an oasis of green into their community. With woodland cover in England at only 11 per cent, one of the lowest in Europe, we welcome this important recognition of the intrinsic value of trees and nature to young people and their future.
Headteacher of Griffin Primary School Chris Beazeley said: "Outdoor classrooms are just as valuable as indoor ones. They bring interest and activity to lessons, giving children more drive and enthusiasm for learning. The trees will help us boost our nature area, creating habitats for wildlife and a living science lab. Our school is in an urban area, and many of our children won’t have the opportunity to visit parks, or woods, or get up close to nature. By planting trees at school we can give them that experience; and teach lessons in an engaging way. Many of our early years children prefer to learn outdoors—it is good for them physically, socially, and developmentally; and the trees will make our school a greener and more pleasant place.
The Government says it will 11 million trees over the course of this parliament, adding: "This follows the Government’s planting of 11 million trees since 2010."
As well as the 35,500 already delivered to schools as part of the pilot phase, the Government will directly fund 400,000 trees to be delivered by the Woodland Trust by 2020. This is in addition to 400,000 already being delivered by the Trust through its corporate-sponsored programme. The remaining trees will be funded through other partnerships, bringing the total to one million, says Defra.
Research commissioned by the Woodland Trust shows that primary age children who take part in tree planting remember it as a significant experience, even into their teenage years; by planting trees they felt that they were ‘doing their bit’ to help the natural environment. A study by Kings College London concluded that the opportunity to learn in natural environments ‘makes other school subjects rich and relevant and gets apathetic students excited about learning’.
This scheme is in addition to the government’s existing pledge to plant a further 11 million trees before 2020 through a combination of the £31m Woodland Creation Grant (part of the Countryside Stewardship scheme) and £19m Woodland Carbon Fund promised in the Spending Review to provide capital funding to secure additional carbon reductions through further tree planting.