It is feared the current review of Birmingham City Council’s Outdoor Learning Service (OLS) could result in the loss of a rare countryside educational facility, which has proved invaluable to generations of children.
The future of Mount Pleasant School Farm near Kings Norton is in doubt, claims The Worgan Trust – a charity set up by the Cadbury family in the 1960s as a means of teaching inner city children about farming, food and the countryside.
Originally located at Chapman’s Hill Farm in Romsley, a £500,000 purpose built classroom and teaching facility at Mount Pleasant School Farm was funded and opened by the Trust in 2008.
For the past four decades the School Farm has been administered by the Trust, with the services of a full-time teacher provided by the OLS. However budget cuts could see the post disappear and with it the opportunity for children to get a ‘hands-on’ understanding of the countryside.
“In an ideal world the Mount Pleasant offering should be part of every child’s educational experience linked to the National Curriculum and built into every school’s educational development programme,” says Worgan Trustee Julian Salmon.
“The experience afforded to the children who visit the School Farm is not of the ‘adventure day-out’ variety, it is carefully designed to complement the National Curriculum and enhance the children’s learning and understanding of agricultural and environmental issues.
“While we appreciate the council’s financial constraints, the Trust does not have the funds to replace the OLS teacher on an on-going basis, and therefore puts in jeopardy the future of an educational facility which has been enjoyed by and benefitted more than 400,000 children.”
Deputy Head teacher Mark Benton of Four Oaks Primary School in Sutton Coldfield has been taking his pupils to the Farm School for a number of years.
“The visits have been a staple part of our Year 3 curriculum for many years,” says Mr Benton.
“It gives the children invaluable hands on experience, you can talk about a subject in class but to have it brought to life is entirely different.
“The classroom and facilities are brilliant, and the farm’s teacher is an expert in her field. She relates to the children and works with the school to produce activities that are tailor-made to complement the work we are doing in school.
“It is a real life experience for them that they remember forever. They come away really inspired and with their imaginations zapped – and it inspires the staff too.
“If a school is looking for an inspirational venue for work to do with animals or the countryside Mount Pleasant Farm School is the perfect destination.”
Jack and Bethany are just two of the thousands of pupils who over the years have enjoyed visiting the Farm School.
Says Jack, “The farm? It was fantastic – it brought all our work to life.”
Adds Bethany, “Milking a cow is a real skill – wow, what an experience!”
A decision on the future of the OLS is expected to be made by BCC in March 2014.
NOTES TO EDITORS
For more information please contact:
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Photo Caption: Thousands of children have benefitted from visiting Mount Pleasant School Farm.
About The Worgan Trust & Mount Pleasant School Farm
The Worgan Trust charity was set up by philanthropist Paul Cadbury in 1967 to protect and preserve land around Birmingham.
In 1972 Mr Cadbury, in conjunction with the City of Birmingham Education Department, started a Farm School at Chapman’s Hill Farm.
Over the past 40 years over 400,000 inner city primary and secondary schoolchildren from the Birmingham area have visited Chapman’s Hill and its sister unit at Money Lane which caters for primary\kindergarten children.
In 2008 the Worgan Trust made the decision to move to a bigger dairy farm – Mount Pleasant Farm – on the Bournville Village Trust estate, where a brand new environmentally friendly classroom was built.
The Bournville Village Trust manages almost 2,500 acres of agricultural land including five farms in the green belt between Birmingham and Bromsgrove at Groveley, Chadwich and Weatheroak.
Mount Pleasant School Farm, on its Weatheroak Estate near Kings Norton provides a rare opportunity for KS 2 & 3 children and other organised groups to visit a 350-acre dairy farm and learn where milk, beef and other food products come from.