Primary teacher explains how The Country Trust has enhanced his teaching
Haydn Bettles teaches primary school children in inner city Manchester. He specialises in bringing Food Technology to the heart of the curriculum and has worked as an award-winning chef in Michelin-starred restaurants.
If you ask a group of adults “what colour is a cow?” most of them will say “black and white”, if you ask them “what does a one-day-old lamb feel like?” most of them won’t know, if you ask them “what’s the difference between hay and straw?” most of them won’t know and finally, if you ask the group of adults “how long is a pig pregnant for?” most of them won’t know the answer.
Now imagine you are a student, you are not provided with many life opportunities and venturing two miles away to the nearest city is the highlight of your school holiday. You know what a cow looks like because you have seen a picture, you know what a lamb is because you have seen it in a book and you know that a chicken lays an egg. Then imagine that one day, you are provided with an experience that you have never had before, that really brings these images to life.
I work in an inner-city school with one of the highest Pupil Premium rates, where our children have very limited experience of the outside world and the world around them. Most of our children have fled war and conflicts in other countries and come to our school with little or no English. Our children don’t understand about the country or the countryside.
I came across the Country Trust two years ago when I researched “free farm trips”. I’ve been teaching food and farming at my school for three years. I would teach the children where their food comes from and they would shake their head and nod, but I knew they didn’t know, as their knowledge of the outside world is so limited. I would show them videos and they would be amazed and they would try to picture themselves there and still they would nod and smile. I then took them right to the core of where their food comes from, and suddenly they were transformed.
This is our second year taking children on farm visits with the Country Trust. We take a number of classes and are very fortunate to visit different farms, from beef, to wheat and oats to dairy- a vast range of farming!
The Country Trust is vital in our teaching of food and farming. It allows children to first of all visit a working farm, but it also allows the children to get up close to the products that they eat and understand where their food comes from. It allows them to gain more general and fact-based information whilst on the farm and we have seen an increase in their food vocabulary due to the trips run by the Country Trust.
We hear about the increasing number of children not knowing where their food comes from, but also not knowing which product comes from which animal. We see this in school and hear other teachers saying the same. I asked one child where apples grow and they replied underground. This child then went on a trip where there was an orchard and was able to see that in fact, an apple grows on a tree ABOVE GROUND. This is why the Country Trust’s work is massively important.
To end, I would like to say a massive thank you to the Country Trust for their work especially with our school. They are providing essential and critical skills in children’s knowledge of where food comes from and connecting children who mainly come from city life, to a world of countryside, animals, wildlife and landscape.