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The trouble with school gardening


First, let me say a big thank you to all of you who have given me such encouragement and positive comment on my school garden.

Many of you have commented that more schools should do schoolyard allotment plots such as the one I’ve built. Although I completely agree with this comment, actually doing it is not always straight forward

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a science university student. I proposed this idea for two reasons. Firstly, I have strong convictions about communities which I feel every citizen has a duty to maintain. Secondly, the economic climate will see me graduate in a jobless climate and so I feel I have to do what I can whilst at uni to cushion the “fall” into said jobless market.

That said, the reality of the situation was not what I’d expected. From the beginning I have approached this very much as a professional business venture. I have written a business proposal, contractual agreements, tried to set up regular management meetings and made sure that everything was well documented and accounted for. However, I soon came to the realisation that not all institution are equally as professional.

The school has played “yes-man” to my face whilst ignoring my requests. Eight months on and I have still to get a formal contractual agreement with them despite several drafts. In addition, I’ve had to fight off an unnamable (even though I desperatly want to name them!!!!) third party organisation that had tried to muscle into my project and take credit from day 1.

Although the school have a project budget, I have had to purchase and/or acquire everything that couldnt be ordered from the council and claim for it later (dont forget, I’m a skint student with a family!). Despite my efforts to regularly meet with the staff and plant this together, they have shown no interest in doing so, passing the buck onto me at every stages. Forget help from parents, they are even more dissinterested than the teachers.

The thing that hurts the most is when I see them showing the garden off to any visitors. I can overhear them speaking as though the whole school has made this grandiose effort. Its all lies and spin and on top of it all, I’m never invited to speak to these people. Although the school tell people that I have done the work, they make out as thought it was their idea and they’re the big oversee-ers which is a complete fantasy.

Other problems include:
- expecting me to teach large groups of children despite not being trained to do so or even having an interest to do so
- expecting me to get the parents/community involved with no school support
- expecting me to run a club and summer programme but again, no support or provision for this
- refusing to sign formal agreements with me
- conviniently forgetting my existence when important people come round
- non-adherence to funding rules

Its been nothing but an uphill struggle and sometimes I wonder why on earth I do it in the first place. At points, I have come home nearly every day ready to cry because of thing that have gone on at “work”. My husband and my mother-in-law (bless them) think I’m more than a little masochistic to carry on with the project. They both think I should cut my losses and walk away beacuse I have tried for many months to sort out these problems with no progress. Trouble is, if I walk alway, I will feel like a failure. If I stay, I will carry on being walked all over. I just dont know what to do anymore.

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The failure is on the part of those of whom you are complaining - not yours. If you walk away, you can do so with head held high and take your talents elsewhere. Their loss, not yours. There ARE people who appreciate your kind of assistance, just as there are those who will attempt to capitalise on the hard work of others whilst taking the credit. Consign these w****** to experience and try your luck elsewhere. Loads and loads of good luck. :o)

9 Aug, 2009


PS; i have added my avatar to "like this blog" NOT because I like its content - I obviously don't - but to show my support for your efforts.

9 Aug, 2009


loud and proud hun loud and proud

when those important people come you walk right up to them and make yourself known. You tell everyone
leaflet drops, all the local newspapers, local news,make a website (some are free)

tell everyoneand keep telling them, local councils,local MPs, any bigwigs you know you write and tell them

Gardeners world,all the big gardening experts

keep telling them, make a pain in the ass of yourself

loud and proud hun loud and proud
x x x x

9 Aug, 2009


Totallly agree with the comments posted above , if i'd got here first then i would have said much the same thing

Of course youre not the failure,they are. Of course you can walk away with head held high just look at the pics and see what you have achieved.

You mentioned in another blog a mother who comes at every opportunity, she's proud of you. In any group of people there are a couple of do-ers and a bunch of hangers on ,some of whom have big mouths and tell lies about the reality to make themselves look good Your best bet I think is to start a garden/ allotment with the one who comes and share the produce whilst watching the one youve made fall into disrepair and showing the liars up for what they are. LOUD and PROUD, too right, but don't batter your head against a wall, it hurts!

9 Aug, 2009


Knowing what I'm like I wont give up on it. I have learned a lot about the politics of running your own busines. Also, the children really enjoy it when they are allowed out there. For that alone, much of the headaches are worth the trouble.

What I do need to do is learn to say "no" and stick to it. I also need to stop going out of my way so much. The last one will be difficult because I enjoy my work very much.

The good news is that another school has requested my services and the university have taken interest in my work too.

Thanks everyone for the kind words of solidarity...xx

9 Aug, 2009


de nada, we all need a little support from time totime as well as somewhere to rail against the injustices of thei world , we're here for both sleep well!

9 Aug, 2009


I agree with moonkins

9 Aug, 2009


I admire your energy Mel, don't let all their c**p get to you. You've done a darn fine job with little or no help so far and just look what you've achieved. Don't think for one minute that everyone will fall for the lip-service they've paid you, it wouldn't take 5 mins for anyone who knows even a little bit about gardening to realise that they wouldn't know one end of a shovel from another.
You've got a lovely project there, the kids enjoy it and it's going to help your future by providing you with valuable experience (and cucumbers), and theirs by teaching them how to grow their own. Who was it that said ...'the love of gardening is a seed, once sown that grows forever', (probably got that wrong but you know what I mean I hope), after all ...someone once sowed that seed in you and look what's happened!
Keep going or resign and move on to better things, the choice is yours, but don't 'give up' because of petit minded beurocrats.
All the best,

9 Aug, 2009


Hi I have the same problem, I do playschemes, community gardening, visits etc with the kids on my estate but can I get other parents involved - no way - I organised a trip down "the billy trail" which has a river running beside it to the sea (with pooh sticks) and a picnic at the end - the parents were quite happy at me taking their children but when i said i wasnt going to be responsible for them beside a river and the sea that they would have to come too - not one family signed up!! The kids were really upset as I had been explained how to play pooh sticks as they never had done that - so it was cancelled.
Also with my community garden - the kids help out watering, picking, eating..!!! but not one mum or dad has helped since we first planted - nothing not even a "thank you" - my boys are the same they are older teenagers now and dont understand why i bother when they are not involved but then when the kids ask me what im doing and things its hard to just stop. It also has helped with antisocial behaviour on the estate because they know if they do something naughty they dont get to take part (not very p.c but it seems to work!!)
Just keep up with the good work you do - you will be appreciated - maybe put a sign up stating who took part (kids and your name!) then the school might want to help more - even get the press involved then the school will have to come up with some help!

10 Aug, 2009


I hear what you're saying loud and clear Genuisscuffy. I do feel its worth the hassle when I realise that the kids are getting loads out of it but it makes me worry what will happen once I leave the project.

I have been working hard on getting the media on board. We have been on BBC radio (other ppl shared credit no less!) and I will be in my local paper in Sept. I have tried to get River Cottage interested in us but I havent heard back from them. I try what I can.

I've contaced the RHS with no success but I havent written to gardening magazines. Maybe I should? Right!!

10 Aug, 2009

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