A Day On The Farm
With 96 pupils suspended and 17 assaults on staff in the previous three years, back in 2010 Wombridge Primary School in Telford in Shropshire was a school in crisis. Fast forward to today and Wombridge has been transformed, so much so that nearly all of the 245 pupils leave the school having completed a GCSE, an impressive five years before the norm. The remarkable turnaround is down to a Mr Sartoor who, after taking over as the new head teacher in 2010, has breathed new life into the once failing school. How? By sending his pupils off into the great outdoors: all the children spend part of the term working on a local farm which lies 10 miles from the school. At Morrells Wood Farm, the pupils help to grow crops, learn about farm machinery and practise how to milk cows. And when they are not at the farm, the children grow herbs in the school greenhouse which they later use as ingredients to cook meals. While back in the classroom, the pupils study how plants grow and how to keep track of produce, which ties their work at the farm with their maths, science and IT lessons. This in turn allows them to sit a GCSE in IT in their last year at the school. As Mr Sartoor explains, the farm is the ‘perfect vehicle’ to deliver the curriculum: ‘We decided two really important things to children’s futures in Shropshire are computing and farming. The old approach of just sitting them in the classroom was not working, so we decided to get them outdoors and learning in nature, and focus on food and farming. The difference in behaviour and how engaged the children are has been remarkable. They are much more self-confident. We have shown that… children don’t need to be excluded, they just need to be engaged.’ And it’s working. Having been bottom of local performance tables back in 2010, the school is now rated ‘good’ by Ofsted. Just shows what a little bit of fresh air can do.