Vulnerable children helped back into learning thanks to gardening and the RHS

Monday 30 January 2012

A report launched today (30 January 2012) by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has found that gardening in schools can help even the most vulnerable of children maintain their place within society.

Moving up, Growing on focuses on six schools and education centres across Yorkshire, who through their work with the RHS have helped children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) to find their own voice and re-engage with education. The skills learnt through the gardening projects undertaken not only bolstered the children’s confidence and friendships but also enabled them to move from childhood to adolescence with less stress and trauma.

Sarah-Jane Mason, SEN Project Officer for the RHS and co-author of the report, explains, “Over the past twelve months I worked with 130 students and 80 teachers across six different learning environments in Yorkshire. All the students have different educational needs, meaning that a person-centred approach is vital to their learning.

“Gardening is a fantastic tool for breaking down barriers and offering children a different environment in which to learn. Gardening is a practical subject, so for a child with SEN this means it is accessible – it makes learning fun and opens up a new world of possibility. I think one of my favourite stories is that of Ghulam, a 13 year old who was starting to become disengaged from education. Through my work with him he now wants to start his own gardening business when he leaves school and has now enrolled on a placement to gain accreditation through the National Open College Network for his practical skills.”

Released with the backing of Lorraine Petersen, Chief Executive of NASEN*, Moving up, Growing on champions not only the role gardening can play in a child’s life but also how it can teach new skills to everyone involved and benefit families and whole school communities.

Lorraine Petersen said, “When a child has Special Educational Needs, it is imperative that they feel part of society in order to succeed. From what I have read and seen, gardening in schools put everyone on a level playing field - they all learn together, experience together and move forward together. The other children, teachers and parents are learning at the same time as the children with SEN, meaning they have a shared experience. This experience goes a long way to closing the gap between being different.”

During their involvement with the project, students learnt an average of 15 new horticultural and life skills. These skills are providing a foundation for some students to move into further education and participate in work experience. These achievements will be a vital part of the their progress towards living a more independent life.

For further information on the RHS, its work with SEN schools and its Campaign for School Gardening visit Please click here to download a copy of Moving up, Growing on.


Notes to editors

Notes to the Editor:

For more information contact: Ed Horne, RHS Press Office on 020 7821 3356 or

* formerly the National Association for Special Educational Needs

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

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

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262