Gardening gong for Shepherds Bush school’s climate change work

Pupils and teachers at a Shepherds Bush school have won a prestigious award for its gardening programme.

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Hammersmith Academy pupils celebrate winning the Sustainable City Award with the school's environmental and sustainability lead Vanessa Hodder and geography teacher Sam Pillow

Pupils and teachers at a Shepherds Bush school have won a prestigious award for its gardening programme.

Hammersmith Academy has been named ‘Sustainable School of the Year’ for its gardening programme that helps encourage biodiversity in the area, while actively teaching young people about global issues.

The secondary academy in Cathnor Road was recognised in this year’s Global Action Plan’s Sustainable City Awards after impressing a panel of expert judges with the wide range of benefits the school brings to the capital and beyond.

From growing vegetables and other plants from seed, to distributing freshly grown produce to local foodbanks and even keeping bees to boost local ecosystems, the school’s gardening programme proved a hit with the judges.

Cllr Larry Culhane, H&F Cabinet Member for Children and Education, said: “This fantastic award for Hammersmith Academy is another example of how much our schools, like us, care about the future.

“We want to give our young people everything they need to go and change the world for the better – and it’s exciting to see this progress.”

Two years ago, Hammersmith & Fulham Council created a climate education group with primary schools to help support local ecological projects. We developed a Climate Education Guide to help teachers raise awareness of the grave dangers of climate change, with input from our resident-led Climate and Ecological Emergency Commission. A climate education group for secondary schools will be created in September.

Award delight

Partnering with the Mayor of London, the awards honoured Londoners who are making life in the capital more sustainable and celebrated those bringing together culturally diverse communities to advance racial, social and environmental justice.

Gary Kynaston, headteacher at Hammersmith Academy, says: “We are absolutely delighted to be named the sustainable school of the year. For the students’ enthusiasm and hard work to be recognised in this way really gives them the confidence to become active citizens involved in important global issues.”

The school launched its gardening project about eight years ago and has already reaped numerous accolades for its green initiatives.

These include being crowned as the Royal Horticultural Society’s School Gardening Team of the Year in 2017 and winning celebrity gardener David Domoney’s Cultivation Street award the next year.

As the project has grown – with regular weekly sessions from the Hammersmith Community Gardens Association (HCGA) and its community gardener Vanessa Hodder – as the school’s impact has extended throughout H&F and even reached international shores.

Students have the opportunity to learn about growing plants from seed, cultivate fresh produce, and take care of animals including chickens and bees.

Thinking big

A recent session included collecting acorns from a local park to grow into saplings, that will then be planted borough-wide as part of a tree-planting project.

“Our gardening programme exposes students to more than the standard activities associated with gardening,” explains Mr Kynaston. “Our students learn about food production, food cycles, biodiversity and ecosystems, not only at the academy but beyond.

“The programme has a large community element with students helping to maintain local planting beds and growing produce for local foodbanks. There is even an international partnership with a reforestation project in Brazil.

“All of this is driven by issues that are important to the students themselves. They are passionate about being active players in the fight against the impacts of over consumption and global warming.”

Next generation

In a study carried out by the school and local environmental charity HCGA, students highlighted how the project helped them to learn new things, feel part of a community and get more physical.

“The award has highlighted all the superb work that schools do in raising the profile of sustainability and ensuring the next generation is equipped to minimise their impact on the world,” adds Mr Kynaston.

“We hope this award encourages and inspires other schools to take up this kind of enriching education.”

Find out more about the awards and Hammersmith Academy’s winning project.

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