FARMING ON THE CURRICULUM
There are about 117 schools with farms on site across the country – and we’re lucky enough to have one of the largest and longest established in our district.
Brockhill Park Performing Arts Academy School Farm in Saltwood is home to cattle, pigs, sheep and rabbits, all a focus for the secondary school’s 1300 students.
We talked to Head of Rural Studies Robyn Fuller and Vice Principal Donna Ashlee about how the farm fits into learning.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Brockhill is the only school in the country to run Great Outdoors (GO), which is Robyn’s brainchild. She says: “The farm is a fabulous resource, it provides enrichment and embellishment to learning, and it encourages the students to explore their core subjects in a new way.
“Every student in years 7 and 8 takes part in GO, and the activities we do are intertwined with their classroom learning. For example, maths comes to life when you’re asked to work out how big a pen for a calf should be, or how much you need to feed a piglet for healthy growth.
“We also take some of the biggest issues, such as climate change and sustainability, and integrate them into farm activities, thus backing up science, geography and DT lessons, and the debates we have around issues support citizenship classes.”
This integration into the curriculum works across all departments. Donna says: “We work closely with staff across the board, we run training about how they can use the farm to support their particular subject, and we’ll work with them to include a particular lesson objective in a creative and different way.”
An annual highlight is Farm Fortnight, when the whole school comes together to celebrate their learning. “We had an amazing performance of The Lion King, staged on the haybales, we have demonstrations and activities such as butter-making and smoothie-making – where students pedal a static bike to power the blender to make the smoothie!” Donna says.
Farm School is another initiative, in which KS1 and KS2 children from local primary schools visit the farm and carry out learning activities in a fun way.
GO’s success and creativity was endorsed recently by OFSTED, the schools inspectorate.
FROM FARM TO FORK
From the eggs laid by the farm chickens, to the meat from the cattle, pigs and sheep, Farm to Fork is a reality at Brockhill. “Research has shown that there is a major disconnect for young people in terms of understanding where their food comes from and how it is produced. We’re aiming to address that balance,” Robyn explains.
“Farming is a business, and a very important one for this country, so it’s essential that our young people understand that.”
Brockhill runs Level 2 BTEC – equivalent to a GCSE – and Level 3 BTEC – equivalent to two A levels – courses in Animal Care.
It’s a very popular subject, and of those who complete Level 3 a recent analysis showed that 75 per cent of students are working in the industry. Job roles are as diverse as you might expect – vets, vet nurses, farm managers, animal physios, TB testers, zoo staff and dog groomers are all on the list.
It’s not all about cuddling bunnies or petting pigs though -animal care lessons include learning about the law, responsibilities to animals, care needs and so on.
“It’s a fascinating, wide-ranging and demanding subject, and it’s clear from our student outcomes that it does equip them to work in their chosen sector,” Donna says.
BROCKHILL YOUNG FARMER’S CLUB
There are 581 Young Farmers’ Clubs in England and Wales dedicated to supporting young people in agriculture and the countryside – and, naturally, there’s one at Brockhill.
Open to 40 students a year from years 7, 8 and 9, the Brockhill Young Farmers regularly sweep the board of prizes at major events such as the Kent County Show. Members do all the work, preparing their animals (sprucing them up to look their best!), and handling them in the show ring.
They enjoy the social side too, with barbecues on the farm – sausages of course!