Kids Connect Campaign

kids in shed

New research reveals a strong willingness among teachers to incorporate food and farming into the national curriculum.

Interviews of 175 teachers, conducted on behalf of the Kids Connect Campaign and sponsored by Bayer CropScience, showed that more than 80% of the schools surveyed had carried out a farm visit in the past five years and half had already planned visits for 2008.

The survey also suggested an imbalance between supply and demand, with 41 teachers saying there were no farms in easy reach of their schools. If there were, 38 said they would visit them (see diagram, below).

Enthusiasm to use a farm visit as an outdoor classroom for so many aspects of the curriculum surprised the researchers, England Marketing. “We anticipated that biology, mathematics and environmental studies would be important, but history, religious studies and personal health and social development are also applicable,” says EM’s Sara Killingworth.

The single biggest thing teachers want from farm visits is to learn how food is grown and reaches consumers’ plates. But teachers also want schoolchildren to appreciate the role of animals as well as the role of farmers in society and the rural environment.

But there are some hurdles which, if removed, would help teachers making farm visits. These include health and safety issues, the administrative burden and guidance on how the farm visit links to the curriculum.

“Health and safety is a major worry these days,” said one teacher. “We tend to go to theme-park type farms because of this.”

But many felt that, so long as risk assessments were done properly, there was no problem.

Commenting on the findings, Bayer CropScience’s Julian Little said: “This research is great news for UK agriculture. It demonstrates that teachers have a real desire to get involved, but in some cases they do not know how to do so. As an industry, we must capture that enthusiasm. It’s an opportunity we must not miss.”

Learning about animals is one of the key aims of teachers organising farm visits.