Lutley Primary School

Emily at the Pod

The Pod is an interactive website and educational platform for teachers, community group leaders and children. It offers free lesson plans, practical activities, assemblies, films, games and information, all with cross-curricular links.

Lutley Primary School

A core volunteer group of parents (including one school governor and one staff member) had already completed one large scale project – Tulley’s Garden, a sensory garden for exploration and outdoor lessons. The children had been involved in planting the herbs, and they have always regarded the garden as a very special place at Lutley.

In 2006 sustainability became an integral part of our school improvement plan, and the senior leadership went to great lengths to ensure all parts of the school community could be involved: staff, governors, children, parents and grandparents. We shared the vision of how the community could move Lutley towards this goal, listed ideas, set targets and put plans into action. An Eco Council was formed and began working on the nine Eco-Schools topics.

In the school grounds, adjacent to the sensory garden, were two more areas of overgrown and unused land. Our playing field is large, with room for tree planting, and a sunny, sheltered (and it turns out, quite fertile) area existed behind our newly built ICT suite which we decided to develop into an organic vegetable garden. In addition, the school owns a large area of land beside the main driveway, which we felt had great potential. Growing organic fruit and vegetables with the children and creating beautiful and useful spaces for wildlife and the appreciation and exploration of nature were our key aims in this venture.

Staff and volunteers worked together with groups of children in surveying the grounds and planning projects. Work by volunteers began at weekends, clearing and preparing the sites. Commitment at weekends has been necessary, as a lot of the volunteers are parents who work fulltime. In general this has been the heavier and more dangerous tasks, in which we could not have involved the children. They created raised beds for vegetables and shrubs, cleared the overgrown sites and carried out building works.

In schooltime children, parents and grandparents began the creation of several special areas:

A Grandparent Partnership Group was formed: grandparents and grandchildren working together on whole day workshops, with the help of a member of staff and the Wildlife Trust. They undertook the creation of a Nature Trail on the area beside the driveway, making a rustic fence, benches and bird hide, planting a mixed native hedgerow and copse and making a very popular living willow dome structure. 

Year 4 pupils helped with tasks in the creation of a Wildlife Garden in a 7m square fenced area. They helped paint the fence, make the pond, plant for wildlife and add features such as bug hotels, a sundial, bird feeding station and dragonfly wall mosaic.

Other pupils have planted a 30m long mixed native hedgerow, a native woodland copse, a fruit orchard of 26 local varieties, a lavender walkway, a colourful flower border and many, many bulbs.

The Grandparent Partnership moved on to a new project, creating a turf maze in the shape of a snail on a corner of the playing field.

Children throughout the school have had the experience of growing organic fruit and vegetables in our vegetable plot, sowing from seed or planting seedlings. They help water the plants and, when ripe, harvest them – preparing and sharing them in class or adding them to our harvest display and harvest sale supporting overseas aid foundations, such as Send a Cow.

A large area on the perimeter of the grounds has been redeveloped using a BBC Breathing Places award. Most of the award has been used to purchase materials; the labour has been almost completely voluntary. Every child has been involved in activities throughout the project; surveying and plotting the site and getting muddy making bricks from ‘cob’ (a mixture of clay soil and straw, from which the volunteer team have built a large roundhouse, topped with a sedum roof). All the children (almost 600) helped sow a wildflower meadow, casting the seed in clay balls (which was great fun, and again messy). They have also planted 700 English bluebells in a small copse of established trees, where we also now have a log seating area.

Some of these activities have been carried out by small groups on normal schooldays, but once a term we have a Green Mufti Day. The children wear non-uniform (something green if possible) and a timetable of environmental activities is planned for every year group. These range from planting to nature walks, building things like nestboxes and bug hotels, to workshops with outside educational agencies such as RSPB, Dudley Waste (recycling) and EcoZone.


We have made several invitations for volunteers with some success, but the original core volunteer group still remains the main workforce, taking on quite large scale projects.

Sometimes our curriculum limits the time available to get children outdoors, working on projects. Staff are usually willing for small groups to miss some lessons and, if carefully planned, a lot can be achieved on our Green Mufty Days. However, the school is soon moving towards a more creative curriculum and we hope Learning Outside the Classroom will feature more highly.

Pupil leadership
As described, we have always gone to lengths to ensure the pupil voice is heard and that all children have opportunities to partake in activities in the school grounds. The Grandparent Partnership allowed a small group to work intensively on the Nature Trail, and the organisers of the other projects have been quite inventive in creating opportunities for all children to experience nature ‘hands on’ (mud brick and seed ball sessions).

We have an extremely active Eco Council, who work on the other Eco-Schools topics, and a Groundforce Team, who are called upon to look after the vegetable plot and take part in other activities, such as planting at a nearby park and carrying out The Big Tidy Up.

Children are very proud of our school grounds and are always extremely eager to get involved. We hope the new creative curriculum will accommodate even clearer pupil ownership.

The Nature Trail, Tulley’s Sensory Garden, the Wildlife Garden, orchard and Breathing Place have not only improved the appearance of our school grounds, but provided important wildlife habitats. In addition, they have provided creative opportunities and really useful areas for outdoor lessons of all sorts.

Growing organic fruit and vegetables has given the children new knowledge and skills, and shown them not only how some food is produced, but also how anyone can have a go at growing their own superior quality food.

Biodiversity, and how we can help wildlife, has also been an important project message which the children have taken on board with great understanding and enthusiasm. Litter has been reduced as a result of regular litter picks and a greater school awareness of the problems litter causes.

Our school grounds projects have won us some awards: Green School Awards UK Champions 2009, Big Wildlife Garden Green Award, Woodland Trust (silver) and in Dudley, Ecostars 2008, Community Pride 2006.

We have used resources from The Pod to take part in Switch-Off Fortnight, make Green Britain Day pledges and are currently building a Bug Hotel (but not had time to record them on the website). We also are registered and have used activities from BBC Breathing Places, RSPB, Nature Detectives, RHS School Gardening, Young People’s Trust for the Environment, Generation Green, Get Growing and the Big Wildlife Garden. We also take part in Earth Hour and The Big Tidy Up.

Outside agencies who have helped us include Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Groundwork UK and the staff of EcoZone at Roberts Primary. Air Cadets and staff form a local company, three members of staff, a governor, about 20 parents and 12 grandparents, plus a few other adults have given us help with the projects.


A grant from the Millennium Commission funded the sensory garden. 

BBC Breathing Places and Creative Partnerships funded the Breathing Place (including cob shelter) and the Nature Trail. 

We have also secured funds from B&Q Better Neighbourhoods, Bailies Educational Foundation and CSV Action Earth.

We also ask for a contribution from parents of 50p each Green Mufty Day. This funds the purchase of compost, seeds, plants, bulbs, tools and other equipment used.

This year the Eco Council have begun making a donation of around �50 each term to environmental charities such as The Woodland Trust and RSPB.

Lessons learned
As long as the school can find funding to pay outside agencies, or have a strongly dedicated team of volunteers willing to learn new skills and with time to offer, some really amazing ambitions can be realised.

There is a huge quantity of online resources and advice available if project leaders have the time to research these and can engage the school in their implementation.

The incorporation of focus days and making curriculum links to activities in the school grounds can be highly productive and is extremely popular with the children.

Keeping the whole school informed about developments is very important and making sure children are involved as much as possible is vital.

Next steps

So many projects have been brought to life over the last six years; we must now concentrate on keeping them sustainable. We increase our food production each year and improvements to projects are always possible – e.g. we are building bug hotels at present.

Our most important task is to ensure the pupils have ownership and have as many opportunities as possible to use the projects for learning outside the classroom.