Headteacher committed to environmentalism at eco primary school with car park gardening oasis

14:29 28 January 2014

Outdoor classroom at  Rhyl Primary school Ewan Graham 10 & Salma Shahzadi 10 pictured with new head teacher Helen Connor and outdoor teacher Tom Moggach

Outdoor classroom at Rhyl Primary school Ewan Graham 10 & Salma Shahzadi 10 pictured with new head teacher Helen Connor and outdoor teacher Tom Moggach

© Nigel Sutton email

The new headteacher of a primary school that turned a car park into a gardening oasis is committed to keeping environmentalism at the heart of the curriculum.

Helen Connor is only in her third week as head of Rhyl Primary School in Rhyl Street, Kentish Town, but plans are already underway to improve on the school’s existing eco credentials.

Together with outdoor learning teacher Tom Moggach, son of Hampstead author Deborah Moggach, Ms Connor wants to make sure every pupil knows about sustainability, seasonal produce and how to eat healthily by the time they leave.

“What’s challenging are the restrictions on the curriculum,” said Ms Connor, of South Tottenham, who was head of North Harringay Primary in Harringay before moving to Rhyl Primary.

“There are expectations and demands to be met, which are becoming increasingly harder to manage.

“But it is important that it remains a central part of the curriculum here and it doesn’t become overshadowed.

“Ultimately, we are teaching the leaders of tomorrow.

“Many children we teach will be teachers, some will be politicians and some will work on the market in Queen’s Crescent, so if the message can get out there, it can only have a big impact.”

Pupils have been working on small gardening plots, created by Mr Moggach in the corner of the school’s car park, at least once a month and they often visit the outdoor space in their other subjects as well.

Strawberries, lettuce, courgettes, watercress and a wide variety of salad leaves are just some of the plants grown in this urban garden.

The school recently won a silver award from the Food for Life Partnership, a network of English schools and communities, for its healthy lunch menu and for using sustainable ingredients, some of which are hand-picked from the garden plots outside.

Mr Moggach, a food journalist who joined the teaching staff in 2012, said outdoor learning is not only beneficial because it gives children exercise, but also because it is a “cross-curricular” activity.

Last term, using maths, literacy and logical thinking skills, pupils were asked to pick salad leaves from the plots, choose good quality leaves for sale in shops, create an invoice and deliver them to a nearby cafe. They sold £600 worth of salad last year alone.

“I don’t think it is challenging for the younger ones, because they have a natural affinity for the outside,” said Ms Connor, who has been a teacher for 20 years.

“Children are fascinated by nature, by things that grow, animals.

“It’s about educating parents to some extent, as I know many of them don’t have a garden or an allotment and they can learn from their children.”

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