Redwood Park Academy, which educates children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), won the Sunday Mirror Cultivation Street award – picking up £2,000 in the process. The competition recognised local groups who used horticulture to improve the lives and environment of local communities.
Owen Ellwood, 15, said: ‘I started helping in the garden by building flowerbeds in Year 7. I was really happy and surprised when I found out we had won the competition.’
Bannor Hafiz, 13, added: ‘I felt really pleased for myself and my friends when I found out we had won. I enjoy planting and feeding the flowers.’
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The initiative sees children from Redwood Academy and Mary Rose Academy grow flowers and a range of crops including tomatoes, sprouts, carrots, pumpkins, onions and courgettes. The school also has an apple orchard and hop garden. Any produce is then sold to reinvest in the project and also used in the children’s own food tech lessons.
Oasis Parvin, 15, said: ‘It feels good to know we are using the vegetables we have grown in our food. I love coming to the garden and my favourite part is looking after the chickens.’
The award also recognised the school’s role in donating produce to the LifeHouse soup kitchen to support people who are homeless.
Horticulture teacher, Ed Bond, who has run the project for the last three years, has seen first-hand the difference it can make to pupils with SEND.
‘One Year 11 pupil, Aidan Ennis, was really struggling to stay in lessons. After getting involved in the garden it gave him a real focus and he went on to win the Royal Horticultural Society’s Young Gardner of Year Award and is now studying horticulture at college. It really helped to turn him round,’ said Ed.
For head teacher, Jo Tondeur, the garden provides an ideal opportunity to engage children who may struggle in the confines of a classroom.
She said: ‘It embodies everything we are about in providing a first-hand real learning environment in a fun and practical setting.’