This page has been included to enable us share background information for your project and should be used in conjunction with the useful information page.
Why your School Grounds Matter
Children should have experiences in a range of outdoor spaces, but there are compelling strategic reasons that make school grounds particularly important. Almost every child has regular access to school grounds with no associated travel costs or time constraints. They experience the space in all weathers throughout the seasons and will spend around 1500 hours of their life there. For many, this will be more than in any other outdoor play setting. It is now recognised that the outdoors is often a better place to learn than indoors, bringing learning to life and opening up opportunities that are simply unavailable in the classroom. When children are closely involved in developing and managing their outdoor environment, it helps foster attitudes of stewardship and responsibility and the grounds can become an important asset both for them and the local community.
Indeed, school grounds offer valuable opportunities for children to be not just stewards of nature, but also students of nature. Childhood has changed dramatically in recent decades. One of the most significant changes has been the decline of children’s playful and self-led exploration of the natural world. Gradually we are learning that this ‘extinction of experience’ has negative impacts on children’s health and wellbeing.
Regular access to nature has been shown to have a calming and restorative effect that helps to improve mental wellbeing. Good outdoor environments encourage children to be playful, physically active and to develop physical skills and confidence. They can foster the development of collaboration, social skills, creativity and positive behaviour. Nature can also provide a refuge from bustle and hassle, helping to alleviate stress and support positive emotional wellbeing. Together, these factors can all contribute positively and significantly to children’s physical and emotional health but they also encourage health promoting habits and attitudes that have a lasting impact into adulthood.
There have been widespread reductions in the diversity and abundance of many wild and managed pollinators in the UK. The Polli:Nation project aims to increase pollinator friendly habitat in school grounds and walk to spaces across the UK. Not only to contribute to a reverse in the decline of our pollinating species but also to support pupils for all the aforementioned reasons. There are more than 30,000 schools in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Just imagine the positive impact if even a fraction of these grounds were re-developed for pollinators and children
Key to the success of your project will be a participative approach. This is where pupils work alongside all adult stakeholders throughout. Adopting this approach should help ensure that the project is both sustainable and holistic ; in other words involving the whole school site, the whole school community and the whole curriculum. From the initial design phase you will want to involve as many stakeholders as possible including children, teachers, support staff, parents, the local community, interested community groups and any other users of the space.
Pupil participation can be a very attractive aspect of grounds projects for schools, giving children the chance to learn valuable skills both within and beyond the standard curriculum, and gain a sense of ownership of their grounds which can help prevent damage through misuse or disregard.
There are different ways to build in pupil participation such as setting up a special steering committee, having a year group take the lead within a class topic, by making use of an existing school council or eco group or by reaching out to local schools within your cluster.
The Polli:Nation project supports a cluster approach to enable for a better sustained, joined-up learning experience for the pupils involved, many of whom will transition from primary to secondary during the life span of the project. For example practical outdoor projects such as survey work, development or conservation work could be used to support transitions between school stages. It is important that valuable work started at primary level is consolidated and built upon when the children move on to their local secondary school. Habitat development work by its very nature cannot be discrete or short term.
Teaching Staff involvement
Successful school grounds projects maximise the involvement of all staff. Communicating across the workforce can help in sourcing a range of useful skills and contacts and offers a new platform/opportunity for communicating with colleagues. Contrast this approach with over reliance on one enthusiastic staff member and their pet project, the latter is unsustainable.
Embedding a school grounds project into the curriculum can be more challenging to plan, but this approach can support developments within particular curriculum subjects and their associated teaching and learning practices.
Also consider how pupils and teachers can share their ideas and learning with each other and more widely with other schools as this will have reciprocal benefits.
While pupil involvement is vital to the success of the project, it is equally important that senior managers have been involved, as the brief should address any ‘top-down’ concerns, including: targets that are part of the overall school development plan; areas for development identified by school inspections; national and local programmes and policies that may affect the school; likely future growth of the school.
Parental and Wider Community involvement
Initially in the planning phase get specialist advice where possible. Ask parents, colleagues, neighbours, friends, the local countryside ranger service and local businesses if they have expertise. Children’s views are important, but so is the advice of adults with appropriate skills in areas such as: wildlife; landscaping; horticulture; building; outdoor art and rural crafts. The best results will come when these adults work alongside children to develop and deliver ideas together.
When it comes to development, be shrewd and resourceful within the school and wider community. Many may be willing to be involved in donating expertise, time and materials. Be smart in auditing the skills base of supportive members of the community. Individuals may also be happy to donate materials that are required.
Dads can often be readily encouraged to volunteer for practical outdoor tasks as can those parents who have perhaps not engaged academically. Many schools organise occasional weekend work parties, which are often a fun social way for parents to get to know each other. Consider your local community service team for labour too.
A Note on Vandalism
Many schools with great grounds have suffered vandalism at some point. However, they persevered, viewing the setback as a learning opportunity. This persistence fosters joint pupil and community investment in the project and builds resilience collectively. Things may not always go according to plan but choose to learn from the stumbling blocks, work together, pilot new ideas, adapt, evolve and use problems as a great source of ‘real world learning.’
Team Contact Details
Learning through Landscapes Project Manager
Mary Jackson is the Polli:Nation Project Manager she is responsible for the project officers and facilitators. She controls the project finances, reporting and evaluation. She will take a lead on media coverage during the project and where necessary support staff and facilitators with schools.
01962 845 466
Learning through Landscapes Project Officers
There are four project officers in total spread across the UK. Their role is to support facilitators and schools through the project. Our project officers will act as facilitators for clusters as well as attend Polli:Nation events. They liaise with the Press and PR staff so would love to hear your stories as your project proceeds. Over the course of the project a project member of staff will make every effort to visit each of the clusters (260 in total UK-wide).
Northern Ireland Project Officer Rachael Conway
Scotland Project Officer Clare Rooney
England and Wales Project Officer David Kilner
England Project Officer Ruth Staples-Rolfe
Who’s who in a Polli:Nation Project.
This is the school that completed the application and will lead the way in year one. They have signed the terms and conditions of the Polli:Nation project.
A Polli:Nation Cluster
This is the name of a group of schools or settings that are working together for the Polli:Nation project. They have all signed the terms and conditions of the Polli:Nation project and are committed for at least the 3 years of the project.
Cluster non lead school
These schools are not heavily involved in year one of the Polli:Nation project and work with the lead school in years 2 and 3 to make changes for pollinating insects. They have all signed the terms and conditions of the Polli:Nation Project and are committed to the project for at least three years.
Learning through Landscapes facilitator
A Learning through Landscapes facilitator can be either a project officer or a sub contractor working for Learning through Landscapes. More information on what you can expect from a sub contracted facilitator is available below. All facilitators will support the sharing of ideas between groups of people involved in the Polli:Nation project. They will do this in several ways; through meetings with their schools; by being available on email and phone to support a cluster of schools; by signposting to other organisations and by supporting schools to make their projects participative and inclusive where possible. They cannot make physical changes but may choose to assist in participative activities to support different audiences to take part.
Learning through Landscapes Project Officer
A Learning through Landscapes Project officer is employed by Learning through Landscapes on a part time basis. The role of the Project Officer is to support facilitators and schools through the project. They are mainly office based but will be involved in events and in some cases they will act as a facilitator for a cluster. They liaise with the Press and PR staff so would love to hear your stories as your project progresses. Over the course of the project we are aiming for each cluster (260 UK wide) to be visited by a project member of staff.
Learning through Landscapes Project Manager
The Polli:Nation Project Manager is responsible for the project officers and facilitators. The Project Manager oversees the finances, and is responsible for the reporting and evaluation of the project. They will take the lead on media coverage during the project and where necessary support staff and facilitators with delivery of the project in schools.
Polli:Nation is a partnership project. The Partners are all contributing in different ways. Here is a brief overview of how they may contribute to your Polli:Nation experience:
LTL is the lead partner who will be communicating with you and will allocate you a facilitator. Learning through Landscapes is a children’s charity that aims to enable all children the opportunity to learn and play outdoors. Find out more about Learning through Landscapes at ltl.org.uk.
OPAL are based at the Imperial College in London. They have a network of community scientists who engage schools in national recording schemes including the Polli:Nation project which has been developed especially for their project. As part of this project you will be given free resources and asked to complete our NEW survey.
To find out if you have a community scientist near you please work with your facilitator and use your existing networks.
The Field Studies Council manages a network of study centres and courses UK wide. They also create the publications that you will receive with the OPAL survey.
To find out if you have a centre and activities near you, please go to their website, please work with your facilitator and use your existing networks.
Butterfly Conservation are our Lepidoptera experts and have a network of reserves and expertise nationally. They have informed the OPAL survey and online resources. They run an annual Big Butterfly Count
To find your local experts and Big Butterfly Count please work with your facilitator and use your existing networks.
Buglife have a network or entomological experts nationally who have informed the OPAL survey and online resources. Some of these experts will be available to you at a local level. They also have a number of community projects such as Buzzlines.
To find your local experts or projects talk to your facilitator about this or use your existing networks.
In addition to the partners above a number of organisations are working on this project as delivery partners they are not on the steering group but do have a key role to play in the overall project:
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust are our Bumblebee experts. They are going to be particularly involved in a Thurso Cluster in Scotland. They have a network of volunteers nationally. To find out if you have someone near you please work with your facilitator and use your existing networks.
Stirling University has a PHD student evaluating the project as a whole. At some point you may be asked if you would like to participate in their research. This evaluation is to monitor the impact of this project on children’s opportunities to get outdoors and understand the natural world.
The Trust for Volunteers are working specifically on a pilot project in Birmingham secondary schools evaluating the way secondary pupils can support this sort of project. They will be making their findings and resources available on the Polli:Nation website.
TCV nationally have a wide range of activities from conservation holidays, training materials and an online shop that specialises in conservation task equipment and publications. To find out if they have practical expertise or green gym volunteers near you please visit their website.
Other support that you may find to work with your schools, including volunteers
During the project you and your facilitator will identify sources of information and support. This is great and may even help you to attract additional funding for your work. You are encouraged to think about the long term sustainability of your project.
What to expect from your facilitator
Learning through Landscapes (LTL) supports schools and early years settings to make the most of their outdoor spaces for play and learning. To ensure that the service we provide to schools and settings is of a high quality and continually assessed, all of our facilitators have: a number of years of experience of grounds development; been through our Training into Practice course; passed accreditation and undergone frequent quality assurance checks.
You can therefore be confident that the person assigned to your project is an effective and experienced professional whose working practices are underpinned by LTL’s philosophy of grounds development. This process enables LTL to make use of and direct schools to the most appropriate individuals for your specific needs.
To ensure that the facilitators we use are effectively quality assured and consistently providing an excellent service we ask that you complete an evaluation form at the end of the contracted work. You will be reminded to do this later in the project and you will be able to send this directly to LTL.
Contract and Schedule of Work:
Before a facilitator begins work on a project a contract and schedule of work is drawn up that clearly states what you can expect from the delivery of the project. Please note that many of our consultants have other skills and services to offer schools. Whilst it can always be an advantage to continue to employ someone who knows your project, school or setting, LTL advises that you seek at least three quotes for any contracted work. LTL only provides quality assurance on the services we are contracted to deliver.
DBS/criminal records checks
LTL recommends that all facilitators working within schools have an up to date DBS check. However, it is the responsibility of the school or setting to check this document if the facilitator will be working unaccompanied on the premises.
Insurance and public liability:
Anyone delivering work on Learning through Landscapes’ (LTL) behalf is covered by our public liability insurance. If additional physical improvements are carried out by the facilitators then please ask to see their relevant insurance cover to deliver that work.
Health and safety:
If a contractor is delivering work within your grounds then please ask to see their relevant health and safety documentation.
Risk Benefit assessments:
You may wish to undertake a risk benefit assessment before the arrival of your facilitator. Learning through Landscapes uses Risk Benefit Analysis during its work and these can be viewed here as examples to be used in conjunction with your own school policies and procedures.
If you have any questions about the project your first point of contact should always be your facilitator. If your question relates to amendments to your contract or further LTL support please speak with your national LTL project officer or manager. LTL is able to support schools and settings in a variety of ways to improve the use, design and management of your outdoor spaces. These include:
- Membership resources. As a successful school you have full CPD membership and can access our online training modules and membership resources. This also includes a directory of businesses who specialise in school grounds. Your facilitator should be able to tell you more about this.
- Advice line. The Polli:Nation team are here to answer enquiries about your project and if you are unable to get hold of your facilitator you are welcome to call us.
- Training and conferences.
LTL always advises that your Local Authority is kept informed of any changes to your outside spaces. Every Local Authority has guidelines on grounds development and will be able to support you in your vision.
LTL is committed to resolving issues about the quality of products and services we provide in a way that is fair, prompt and without prejudice. In the unlikely event that you are unhappy with either the service you have received or facilitator contracted to your project, please contact your LTL Project lead. We suggest that you contact LTL as soon as the issue is identified as many problems can be quickly and easily resolved if dealt with early enough. If the complaint involves the project lead then please direct your complaint to LTL’s Projects Manager — Mary Jackson email@example.com, 01962 845466.