2m extra children to benefit from NFU pre-school pack
By Jonathan Riley
AN additional 2m schoolchildren will have access to the NFUs schools initiative following the launch of its pre-school pack.
The pack provides teaching materials designed by teachers and advisers to meet the needs of two- to four-year-olds. It is the final piece in a jigsaw of several age-specific packs which already provide information for 4.5m schoolchildren up to A-level standard.
Heading the scheme, and launching the programme at St John the Baptist school in Hackney, former schools inspector Jill Clay said that 202 farms were involved. They had been inspected independently to meet Health and Safety Executive standards so students could pay day or week-long visits.
"Different farm types are used. It is not just livestock farms – arable farms are equally suited to provoke thought on mathematical, scientific and biological subjects on the farm and stimulate study back in the classroom," said Ms Clay.
Openness is a key to the initiative and farms are chosen to represent the industry accurately. A-level students are invited to visit intensive farms and to judge for themselves whether welfare is acceptable. "We have had no complaints about welfare even after visits to very intensive pig units," added Ms Clay.
Getting the message over to teachers has been achieved by seminars which began when the first school packs were launched in 1994. "Since then, our seminars have taken the message that farming can be used as an educational foundation to 7000 schools throughout the UK," she said.
NFU deputy president, Tony Pexton, said: "The initiative was started because we felt, as farmers, we wanted kids to understand and learn about agriculture. Many of the inner city children have never seen farm animals close up and their interest is immediate. Kids then adapt to this new environment quickly and begin to ask questions and a farm visit becomes a fun way to learn."
Michael Akande, a pupil at the Hackney school, was enthusiastic about the prospect of a visit to a farm. "I am going to work hard and get good grades so that we can go and see what a real farm is like," he said. *
Initial shyness soon wore off when pupils at the St John the Baptist school, Hackney, realised farm animals could help make learning fun.