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Croydon’s children to learn through farming

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An award-winning educational farm project in Wiltshire that was founded in a Croydon school field is set to be visited by hundreds of local pupils over coming years.

This is thanks to a charitable legacy from the governors of the former Haling Manor School that will guarantee places for hundreds of young people on an innovative and successful self-development programme.

Jamie Fielden, who used to teach at Haling Manor, had the idea for what was to become ‘Jamie’s Farm’ when he noticed how much pupils’ behaviour and achievement improved when he introduced a pair of sheep into the school.

He was so convinced of the benefits of what he had seen that he began the task of transforming his family’s working farm into a charitable centre for educational development.

When Haling Manor moved to academy status, the school’s governors decided to invest £200,000 into the project. This was money that they had raised over a number of years through voluntary donations. The bequest will provide initial subsidised places for any school in the borough to send children for a week’s experience of life on the farm. The aim is to build long-term partnerships so that schools that recognise the benefits of the scheme will subsequently fund visits themselves.

Councillor Tim Pollard, cabinet member for children, families and learning, said: "This is a great way of improving young people’s attitudes to society and their relationships with others. It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to use the school’s money and put it into a project that was born in Croydon. I’m sure that many of our young people will benefit enormously from the experience we will be able to offer them."

Riddlesdown Collegiate was the first to benefit from a trip organised by a team from the council who work with schools and other agencies to raise the expectations and attainment levels of children in the council’s care who may need extra support and encouragement.

The five-day residential visit allowed children to look after animals and crops, trade at the local market, try out rural crafts, prepare meals alongside a trained chef and learn about a way of life that many people from urban backgrounds have very little understanding of.

Tom Holway, a teacher from Riddlesdown, said: "During the course of the week each of the students overcame a challenge they nominated themselves and through the outstanding support, guidance and the nurturing environment created by the Jamie’s Farm staff were able to share successes and revel in each other’s achievements. I have been humbled to see our students benefit from such as amazing opportunity and have already witnessed some of the positivity return to the classroom as a result. Jamie’s Farm really has helped to cultivate change!"

Schools wanting to get involved in the project can contact Lisa Fenaroli on 020 8726 7389 or via email