Chelsea Garden: A vision for all ages and abilities

1 March 2023
In May, we’ll be taking our mission to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show with a special garden that celebrates children’s access to nature. Alec Reed Academy is one of two primary schools that the garden will be relocated to once the Show is over, ensuring it lives on as a fantastic learning resource.

Alec Reed Academy occupies a large campus alongside the A40 in Northolt, offering education from age three to 19, with dedicated early years, primary, secondary, and college facilities, a special educational needs (SEN) hub and an adult learning centre. Many of the pupils who attend the school live nearby in estates or tower blocks, meaning they have no garden to enjoy at home. And while Alec Reed Academy offers them lots of outdoor space, it currently lacks any plants, habitats or wildlife that the children can explore.

Katie White is a Year 4 Teacher and Health and Pupil Voice Lead, facilitating primary school council meetings and ensuring the children’s views and requests are heard and addressed. 

Katie tells us more about her vision for the Chelsea Garden once it's relocated...

Meet Katie White

I've been at the Primary school for five years now. I've always led the School Council. Making sure young people have their own voice is the most important thing for me, along with pupil engagement.

We have School Council meetings every two weeks and the children, who are in Years 2 to 6, often talk about wanting more areas to sit with friends, to read and explore wildlife. We do have green space, but no plants for them to learn about, places for planting, or somewhere just to sit in a nature environment. It's all kind of tarmac and grass.

A garden for all purposes, ages and abilities

This garden is going to bring the curriculum to life. We can use it for science, our geography fieldwork, for all areas of curriculum. I just think when children go outside to learn, they're so much more engaged in their learning because it's going somewhere different from their classroom – and it’s in the fresh air. So that was the main driving force for me in applying for the garden. Right now, we’ve got some grass, tarmac and a couple of trees – there’s nowhere you can look closely at different plants growing or track down a variety of insects.

  • Alec Reed Academy
    Alec Reed Academy
  • Children hearing garden relocation news
    Children hearing garden relocation news
  • Proposed site for SFM Garden relocation
    Proposed site for SFM Garden relocation
  • Proposed site for SFM Garden relocation
    Proposed site for SFM Garden relocation

So, as well as Year 1 to Year 6 using the garden as a learning resource for parts of the curriculum, this is what I am planning:

Every day, we have an end of day reading session, which is usually around 20 minutes. One group would visit each day. I would like to schedule a slot once per week for different year groups to have sessions with each other, for example, Year 6s with Year 2s, and Year 5s with Year 1s. That would be great. 

The Early Years Lead is really passionate about doing some mindfulness sessions in the garden with the children. Part of it is to do with being prepared for the day as well as learning to keep calm and getting the children settled. She's also going to do a daily morning story-time in the garden.

It sounds like we’re going to have places to grow vegetables, so every year will get a chance to do some planting. The younger children are going to be reading Jack and the Beanstalk, and they're going to grow some broad beans like in the story. They’ll really like that, and we’ll be linking it to the reading and English curriculum. 

Tackling poor nutrition is an important issue for us and the garden is going to be a really useful resource to endorse our healthy eating programme – encouraging children to try something new, and take their learning home, and perhaps grow things at home too.

  • Tokens for healthy eating
    Tokens for healthy eating
  • Tokens for healthy eating
    Tokens for healthy eating

In terms of children with special education needs, we have a social skills group which used to run projects where they would do things like making things to sell. I’m hoping that they can grow their own vegetables and sell them to the local community. 

I know from my own experience that being outside can have dramatic positive effects on children with special needs. I was teaching in Year 2 earlier this year and there was a boy who has quite severe behavioural problems. He would find it very difficult to cope in the classroom, to the point where he was getting very aggressive. However, when he was taken outside, he would begin socialising and building relationships with children, which he's never done before. This was just from sitting on the bench or walking around with them. I think it was just calming for him to go out there.

Actually, I think having time out in this garden, surrounded by plants, is going to be good for all the children.