Through the National Park Grant Scheme, we offered £2,316.40 to Lochgoil Primary School to support the build of a new polytunnel which will provide year-round opportunities for growing fruit, vegetables, trees and wildflowers for the school and wider community.
While the school had been growing food for many years, this was done in wooden raised beds in the playground which had rotted through. And with frequent visits from deer, many young plants, fruit and vegetables were often eaten before the children had an opportunity for success. The school wished to encourage a positive attitude to growing food, engage the wider community in the school and increase opportunities for outdoor learning. A polytunnel would have many advantages: all-weather cover, an earlier start to the growing season (which is curtailed by the school year ending in July), and protection from local wildlife.
In light of restrictions around COVID-19, the polytunnel then gained a greater importance by allowing the school to support education aims and reduce health risks in a well-ventilated area. The pandemic also shone a light on the importance of spending time in nature for our mental wellbeing. The school hoped that the polytunnel would help pupils to connect with nature in their local environment.
Funding supplied through the National Park Grant Scheme allowed the build of the polytunnel including anchor plates, aluminium base rail and upgraded bars to ensure it stands up to the wind and local climate.
This funding was supported by the local community to help to reduce food miles to this isolated part of the National Park. As well as providing a site for pupils to learn about food, climate change and biodiversity, the polytunnel will support health, wellbeing, numeracy and literacy. It will also provide an additional space for outdoor learning of other subjects and become an area of focus for the whole community.
Lochgoil Primary School Headteacher Karen Wheatley said: ‘In this first year of the polytunnel project, the school plans to use the polytunnel as an outdoor space to teach children about vegetable and fruit growing in all seasons. This will form part of an interdisciplinary project that links learning about food, sustainability, and science.
‘Members of the local community have also expressed interest in helping with food growing when the school is closed, giving the polytunnel a real community focus.’