RHS Reacts to DEFRA-backed Report into Growing in Schools

Monday 5 March 2012

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) welcomes a Government-backed report launched today by Secretary of State Caroline Spellman. The RHS is part of the Taskforce that compiled the report, which looks at schools in England, to explore and set out the huge benefits to children who are taught how to grow food.

Clare Custance, RHS Strategic Development Manager, said: ‘This is a very exciting report that expands on the research we carried out two years ago into the benefits of growing plants and food at school to a child's educational experience.** We hope that the recommendations of the report are recognized and that food growing becomes part of the activities in which all schoolchildren get involved. Growing and gardening teaches skills that are transferable to a child's academic needs and I hope all the schools take on board the findings of this report - we’d be thrilled to work with them.’

Apart from the RHS, the 25-member Taskforce includes representatives from Garden Organic, Morrisons Supermarket, the Forestry Commission, The Sun newspaper and the Food For Life Partnership. The main conclusions of the report are:

• Improves academic achievement A standout finding of the report was the benefit school food-growing activity had on academic achievement. Schools cited supporting the outdoor curriculum (68%), supporting the science curriculum (57%) and supporting the food technology curriculum (39%) as motivations for growing food in their school. Further evidence showed enhanced scientific understanding, numeracy, literacy, and language skills.

• Builds life and employability skills Aside from the emphasis on improving learning, the Taskforce found that the activity of growing food in schools also supported the acquisition of life skills, including financial literacy and enterprise skills. Communication and employment skills were also enhanced. Signs for improved motivation and behaviour, for example arriving early to school and leaving later, were found, as was increased attendance and completion of homework, and less disruptive classroom behaviour.

• Improves health and wellbeing 73% of schools cited teaching children about nutrition as a motivation for food growing, 68% for giving them skills for a healthy adult life and 33% for encouraging exercise. Evidence showed improved understanding of food and nutrition, increased willingness to try fruit and vegetables and increased consumption of fruit and vegetables.

The report is being released just a week after the RHS announced that the 15,000th school had signed up to the charity's Campaign for School Gardening, backed by Alan Titchmarsh, meaning that nearly half of all UK schools are now part of the campaign.

To find out more about the campaign and to read RHS research that looks at the benefits of growing in schools, go to: www.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening



Notes to editors

*The Executive Summary, and full Food Growing in Schools Taskforce report can be found at: www.gardenorganic.org.uk/foodgrowinginschools

*RHS research, ‘Gardening in School: a vital tool for children’s learning’: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening/uploads/documents/RHS-Gardening-in-Schools-Aug10_852.pdf

Caroline Spellman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs attended Oval Primary School, in Birmingham today, to mark the publication of the report which will be used to urge providers, society and business to come together and ensure that in future every child is involved in food growing as part of their school experience.

About the Food Growing in Schools Taskforce
The Food Growing in Schools Taskforce consisted of representatives with interests and expertise in the delivery of food growing in schools. It was chaired by Garden Organic and included leaders and practitioners from schools, charities, corporate providers, community organisations, media, government, including Defra, the Department of Health and the Department of Education. The task force engaged with more than 150 organisations and schools, and used data from an independent, national survey of 1,300 schools to produce this report and recommendations. Full report: www.gardenorganic.org.uk/foodgrowinginschools

Garden Organic is the UK’s leading organic growing charity. Dedicated to promoting organic gardening in homes, communities and schools, and advancing organic growing through research, it uses innovation and inspiration to get more people growing in the most sustainable way.

About the Campaign for School Gardening
The RHS actively involves more than 15,000 schools across the UK in growing and gardening through its Campaign for School Gardening. Children are taught about plants and gardening and their environment. Through gardening they learn about healthy fruit and vegetables, wildlife and important life skills such as teamwork, social skills and co-operation. Huge benefits are to be had from using an outdoor classroom where children can learn in a fun, engaging way. Information, lesson plans and advice for schools are provided online and backed up by support from the RHS education team and Campaign for School Gardening Regional Advisors. Schools can work their way up from Levels 1 to 5 in an online self-assessment scheme and qualify for rewards, including the chance to receive the Alan Titchmarsh Award, at levels 3 to 4. www.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s foremost gardening charity, helping and inspiring millions of people to garden. We do this at our gardens and shows and through our scientific research, publications, libraries and our education and community programmes. We are entirely funded by our members, visitors and supporters.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262


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About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit www.rhs.org.uk

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262