National Gardening Week (25th May - 2nd June 2019) has published a report on the state of Primary School gardening in the UK. You can read the full report here.
Gardening in school is often the only opportunity children have to engage with nature. A report by the National Trust states the area around the home in which children are allowed to play, has declined by almost 90% since the 1970s; driven by parental fears over safety. And their own gardens, if they are lucky enough to have one, are increasingly being paved-over, plant-free zones. Plant-free paved-over gardens have tripled in number to 4.6 million in the last 10 years - half of all gardens in London are paved.
There is light at the end of the (poly) tunnel, though. Over 1.5 million children, across 90% of the UK’s primary schools, are involved in gardening at school. And it comes as little surprise that of the 402 primary school head and deputy head teachers surveyed for this report, 94% agreed that school gardening benefits pupils’ physical health, mental well-being, social skills, behaviour and/or concentration.
Despite this agreement as to its benefit and importance, however, it was found that schools have, generally, only 33p per pupil to spend on school gardening. There is also a noted lack of materials to draw on to link gardening to the curriculum. And, we need to challenge the numbers and consider that whilst 1.5 million might sound like a large number of children, this is only a fraction of the 5.5 million primary school children in the UK.
There is still, much to be done, to get children outdoors and gardening. When we have such a clear link to wellbeing and health we must challenge the government, parents and teachers to work together to help children grow!