Six Month Reflection

Its been six months since the school acquired its allotment and what a busy time its been. What started as a lumpy patch of grass has been transformed into a productive plot that now boasts six raised vegetable beds, a pond, wildlife area, wildflower meadow, a rainwater harvesting system, plastic bottle greenhouse, shed and teaching area. The transformation is all thanks to a big effort from pupils, parents and staff who have worked tirelessly in order to create this valuable learning resource for the school.

A successful fundraising campaign that began in January also generated £600 and a further £500 came from a generous donation from a private individual. The latter donation is being invested in a large work table for the children. It has been built by local blacksmith, William Pankhurst, and he finished it only yesterday! A plaque will be made and fixed to the table in memory of the donor’s late wife, who would have loved the allotment and everything the school is striving to achieve.

The Plot

The Oakridge allotment site is situated in a beautiful spot nestled just on the outskirts of the village. There’s not a house to be seen, just soaring skies and the sounds of song birds. The school plot is a full size one but it’s easily filled with thirty seven children! The school doesn’t have a playground of its own as such, but is fortunate to have access to the two adjacent quintessential village greens. It’s rather like travelling back in time when you see the children all playing outside together.

This lack of outdoor space was the inspiration behind the allotment. Think of it as an extension of the school, where classroom learning is brought to life. Theories the children can only read about in books can be put into practice here. It engages them on a level that goes above and beyond the criteria of the National Curriculum. It beggars belief that this type of learning, one that satisfies the children’s natural curiosity and generates such wonderful enthusiasm, isn’t a core part of the education system. Learning could be so much more enriched as a result.

The school allotment has been warmly received and backed by the local and wider community. Local press and radio have given the initiative great coverage, which has provided a good marketing opportunity for the school. Local community groups, Down to Earth and Stroud Valleys Project, have also shown great support, giving the children worm and soil workshops as well as passing on words of advice to parent volunteers.

November 2018

May 2019

The Raised Beds

The school was incredibly fortunate to receive a very generous donation from Jewson’s in Stroud, who kindly supplied and delivered all the wood for the raised beds free of charge. There was over £200 worth of timber, so it really was a very kind gesture. Both class one and class two have their own beds for school specific topics and activities while the other four beds have been put to good purpose and planted up with a wonderful assortment of vegetables, all chosen by the children. From broad beans and runners, potatoes, peas and pumpkins, squashes and sweet peas, lettuces and tomatoes, the children have enjoyed being involved in the process of sowing seeds and watching them grow.

Back in February the children had a visit from MP David Drew, Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He has been extremely supportive of everything the school is trying to do and even helped the children plant their seed potatoes! From that first meeting an important relationship has formed. The school is looking forward to welcoming David back in the Autumn for a spot of seed saving.

Speaking of which, the school has become a member of the Heritage Seed Library, which means the children can now call themselves Seed Guardians. We are the first school in Gloucestershire to hold this accolade, which is really special. It is a great opportunity for the children to be involved in important conservation work. They will be responsible for rescuing heirloom orphan vegetable treasures from extinction and in so doing secure the genetic diversity of our food.

There are important cultural and scientific reasons for growing old kinds of vegetables. Seeds carry stories through generations, and also across continents. There is a surprising amount of history to be taught through this cross-curriculum subject. Few beans can be as poignant as the Cherokee Trail of Tears. In the winter of 1838-39, Cherokee people in the US were forced to march from their lands in Georgia, over the Smoky Mountains; 4,000 died on the way. The shiny black bean the Cherokee took with them is an important heirloom seed and has been grown in Britain for a long time. Seed conservation is important, but by growing these old varieties - many of which have adapted to very local conditions - more can be understood about their adaptability to climate change, pests and diseases.

January 2019

May 2019

The Pond

The pond has really begun to settle into the landscape. From its first conception on a cold and rainy day in January, where the Dad’s did such a good job at digging THAT hole, it is now starting to flourish with life. The children have so enjoyed watching the frog spawn develop - the pond is teaming with hundreds of tadpoles. There really is nothing more delightful than watching the children participate in the most simple of pleasures that is pond dipping.

So much wonderful work has gone on in this area over the last few months, the highlight being the dry stone walling workshop the children did with Adrian Montague. They all absolutely loved the experience. So rewarding to see them learning, and appreciating, this age old tradition, which taught them about the value of patience and hard work, values that are so important in this digital world in which they live. Work in this area is ongoing, with the erection of the fence underway in order to make the pond safe.

January 2019

May 2019

The Team

The success of the allotment over the last six months reflects the positive relationship the school enjoys with the parents. Education, in the true sense of the word, really is a team effort. It’s a close knit group of people who all share the same ideal - to provide something better for the children.

This photo is just a snippet of all the people who have been involved in the project so far. Mr Williams, the interim head, has been a beacon of support. Big thanks to him for having such faith in other people’s ideas and for letting the concept find its feet and flourish. The class one and class two teachers and teaching assistants have worked miracles with the current National Curriculum. Despite its limitations, opportunities have been created. None were more so apparent than on World Book Day when an author visited the allotment. Story telling, reading, acting and engaged learning were at the very roots. The children took that experience back to the classroom and it provided weeks of learning opportunities with amazing outcomes.

The Future

The school hopes to have the plastic bottle greenhouse finished by the end of the Summer term. The fence for the pond is due to be completed by the end of term as well. The large work bench has literally just been finished and is ready to be carried up to the allotment right now!

Looking a little further ahead at the 2019/2020 school year. Come the Autumn the children will receive their free trees for schools pack. Two hundred and forty saplings are due to be delivered thanks to the Woodland Trust. The trees will form part of a native hedging scheme that will wrap around the perimeter of the allotment creating a more defined area. It will also create an important new habitat for birds and other animals. Saplings have been carefully selected in order to provide the children with as many learning opportunities as possible. From working wood such as willow and hazel to a wild harvest from which the children can make jams and jellies through to wildlife hedging. The children will be involved in all aspects of planting.

As with all the projects the school undertakes on the allotment, the emphasis is always on the children and involving the community as much as possible so that the village and the school can feel the full weight of each other’s support. With that in mind, there has been suggestion of inviting local residents, friends and families to plant one of the Woodland Trust’s trees in memory of a loved one, therefore really unifying the space and all that it stands for.

Perhaps most important to the future of Oakridge school’s allotment is the appointment of the new head teacher, Mr Jonathan Preston, who takes on the role full time in September. Teachers, parents and pupils have great faith that he will cement the strong foundations that have already been laid on the allotment so that future generations of Oakridge children can enjoy the enormous benefits that outdoor learning brings.

BBC Radio Gloucestershire - Breakfast Show

Since getting the allotment out of the ground in November last year, it has received great support from the local and wider community. All the good work the children have been doing has been well publicised in local papers and on local radio stations. It has really helped to promote the school.


On this occasion, the children met a journalist from BBC Radio Gloucestershire. The programme aired on their popular breakfast show this morning.

Click on the link below to hear what the children and parents had to say.

Gardening Club #11

There’s something about being caught out in a heavy rain shower that children just seem to relish. Whether it’s the sheer excitement of getting thoroughly drenched or the simple joy of jumping in muddy puddles, there’s a lot to be said for letting the little ones embrace nature.

The deluge certainly didn’t dampen spirits at today’s gardening club, in fact it had quite the opposite effect. Moral was high as the children worked together enthusiastically emptying chicken and vegetable waste into the compost.

The second tractor tyre also needed planting up and the children were so busy they didn’t notice the rain clouds looming.

They cut out the membrane, which they laid on the ground inside the tyres. The membrane will help to suppress weeds.

The children piled rocks on top of the membrane to help with drainage. Again, they got a lot of joy out of lugging the stones around.

The great thing about gardening is that most jobs require a great deal of team work. Every activity the children undertook this afternoon required helping one another, be it moving stones…

…or carrying bags of compost.

They worked together and made super progress.

Even when the rain started to come down, they persevered with great determination.

This photo really sums up the spirit of Oakridge children.

Once the planter was ready they started creating their lettuce ‘pizza wheel’, which they did by dividing the circles up into eighths.

Next, they carefully transplanted lettuce seedlings, which they had grown a few months ago.

Alternating the colours, they planted them between the stones. No watering was needed thanks to the downpour of rain!

It was lovely to see so much planting going on. Once the tractor tyre planter was finished the children sowed pumpkins. Fantastic for them to see the tiny seeds in relation to themselves.

There’s always time for a bit of pond investigation, the children love seeing how much the tadpoles have grown, and often try to catch the odd one or two!

Two sweet corn plants were also put into the ground. They had been donated by a parent.

Sunflowers also went in...

…as did lots of lovely sweet peas.

Finally, as the weather dried up, two of the children from KS2 tried out the theory of seed dispersal that they had been learning about in school this week.

Gardening Club #10

Today’s gardening club involved plenty of weeding and progress with the tractor tyre planters. The recent rain and warm weather has caused everything to sprout and so the children were tasked with clearing the raised beds, a job which they all found really fun!

While half the group enjoyed digging up the weeds and finding worms in the soil, the other half helped prepare the tractor tyres for planting. The children loaded the wheelbarrow with large stones and then helped each other to push it over to the tyres to unload.

The children showed great strength as they helped each other carry bags of compost and soil.

They poured the bags of soil into the planter and used their feet to help bed it all down. They had a great time buying each other!

Meanwhile a third group helped to make the new eco-board for the school foyer. The school is in the process of becoming a registered eco-school and there are seven steps it has to take in order to do this. One of the criteria is to put up an eco-board displaying all the things the eco-committee has been discussing.

Irrigation Project - Class 2

Class 2 have a new project for the Spring and Summer term: to design an irrigation system for the raised beds at the allotment.

It’s always great to see the children up at the allotment outside in the fresh air. There really is no better place to learn than from the world around them. Setting real life problems helps engage the children in the topic being taught. This method of applied, hands on learning increases their enthusiasm, holds their attention and promotes growth and togetherness within the group through the use of teamwork.

Just before the Easter holidays the children spent some time looking at how different countries use different irrigation systems. They then applied that knowledge to the problem of how to get water to the raised beds, a great way to turn a geography topic into a science problem for the children to solve.

Classroom work is brought to life with projects such as this. Not only does it get the children doing some real life problem solving, but it also encourages them to become a little more aware of the environment.

The class 2 teacher likes to involve all the children in topic work by encouraging the exchange of ideas in an open group where everyone respects what their fellow peers and friends are saying.

The children brought their findings from the allotment back into the classroom and turned measurements and recordings into models of their proposed irrigation systems.

Once the winning design has been chosen, the children will help to build it. We can’t wait to see the results!

Potato & Bean Planting - Class 1

Last week class 1 enjoyed planting the first vegetables on the allotment, and what a wonderful sight it was!

Mrs Hayes, the class 1 teacher, is a real legend. She’s an incredible supporter of outdoor learning and is always so enthusiastic. It really rubs off on the children. Here she is helping the children to plant their seed potatoes.

Once the potatoes were in the ground, it was time to plant the beans. Mrs Hayes showed the children how to tie the supporting canes together before they all had a go themselves.

The children applied themselves to the task and did a really good job, not only with their own canes but helping their friends too.

Planting the beans was great fun. It was a joy to see the children enthusiastic about what they were doing and getting their hands dirty. The hope is that, over time, the allotment will become an integral part of the children’s curriculum, providing a valuable learning resource for a multitude of subjects.

Finally, there was just enough time to water the freshly planted area before a well earned play in the adjacent playing field.