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Small child wearing red wellies in an allotment dumping a mini-wheelbarrow full of wood chippings onto a walkway Small child wearing red wellies in an allotment dumping a mini-wheelbarrow full of wood chippings onto a walkway

Incredible schools in Bristol

By Sara Venn

Incredible Edible Bristol works with schools in a variety of ways. When the group was first founded it was agreed that education and skill sharing would be at the heart of everything the group undertook and that work with schools should be addressed carefully and consulted on widely and that the consultation would decide upon how to proceed.

Bristol has over 200 schools, ranging from primaries to secondaries and sixth form establishments, and including specialist schools supporting a huge range of special educational needs (SEN). Incredible Edible Bristol’s main aim was to produce something that was an asset to all these schools, inclusive, free to use and ultimately that supported good learning around food, growing and community whilst also ensuring at the first point it was free to access.

To begin with the group set up a consultative group that had teachers and head teachers on board from early years providers through to sixth form and including teachers of those most vulnerable SEN children. Working as a team, that group, through conversations with teachers at their own schools and beyond, realised there were several barriers to growing projects in schools. These included time, availability of land, and skills at a school level. Over and again the group found that in the majority if there was growing going on in schools, it was led by one staff member with perhaps parental volunteers, and that the project relied on that person. If that person left, the project stopped. At the same time the team at Incredible Edible Bristol was being asked by schools if they could come in and set up gardening groups and projects, but they found they were being asked this with the expectation being that it would all be volunteer work and therefore free to the school, which was felt to be too large a task by the team. When asked why this couldn’t be done by a staff member the response was always that no one had the knowledge to do it, despite there being the will.  Which led to the Incredible Schools programme!

The core team at Incredible Edible Bristol realised that they had what the schools didn’t in the skills to work out how these projects could be made to happen and the schools be empowered to run them. After some more consultation schools became super excited at the idea of a simple online resource that supported growing in schools, with sensible, year-round advice on what to do and when which anyone could follow and which would create meaningful growing in their schools.

Working together with teachers the team created their Incredible Schools website which is available to anyone, anywhere, through a fairly simple but safe sign up. The site is available not just used by schools, but by lots of organisations working with young people across the city and beyond, and leads a growing year that begins in September and allows for holidays, and in particular the long summer holiday, ensuring crops appear before and after rather than during those summer days. Whilst this is by far not the only schools work that Incredible Edible Bristol are involved with, it is an accessible starting point for anyone working with young people and has led to some other, equally incredible schools projects for the group.  The resource is found at www.ediblebristol.org.uk.

To find a group near you, search our map here, or to start a group sign up to our website to get access to our Getting going resources to support new groups.