2014-03-17  

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MP Visits Threatened Birmingham Children’s Farm

Bromsgrove Member of Parliament, Mr Sajid Javid, has made an ‘eleventh hour’ visit to a Birmingham children’s farm threatened by council budget cuts.

Mr Javid toured Mount Pleasant School Farm near Kings Norton and met with school children and representatives from The Worgan Trust, the charity that has run the farm school for over 40 years.

Bromsgrove MP Mr Sajid Javid at Mount Pleasant School Farm with Year 3 pupils from Perry Beaches Junior School, Great Barr, Birmingham.

Bromsgrove MP Mr Sajid Javid at Mount Pleasant School Farm with Year 3 pupils from Perry Beaches Junior School, Great Barr, Birmingham.

Said Mr Javid, “I am very impressed, I think it is a hugely valuable facility that has been serving the local community for decades. You can see how much the children learn and how engaged they are.”

The School Farm he said is not “just about learning about animals and animal welfare” but how these issues link with curriculum subjects such as mathematics.

“I think it is a good all-round facility for children and long may it continue. I’ll certainly be doing my bit to ensure this continues for many more years to come.”

Commenting on the School Farm’s future Mr Javid said, “Ultimately the funding has for years come from Birmingham City Council and so it is the council that is going to have the biggest say. I pleased that they haven’t made a final decision at this point.”

The Worgan Trust was set up by the Cadbury family in the 1960s as a means of teaching inner city children about farming, food and the countryside, since then more than 400,000 children visit have enjoyed and benefitted from the experience.

However, the Trust fears the current review of Birmingham City Council’s Outdoor Learning Service (OLS) could result in the loss of a rare countryside educational facility, which has proved invaluable to generations of children.

Originally located at Chapman’s Hill Farm in Romsley, a £500,000 purpose built classroom and teaching facility at the larger Mount Pleasant Farm was funded and opened by the Trust in 2008.

For the past four decades the School Farm has been administered by the Trust, with the services of a full-time teacher provided by the OLS. However budget cuts could see the post disappear and with it the opportunity for children to get a ‘hands-on’ understanding of the countryside.

“We are very grateful to Mr Javid for taking the time to visit our farm school here at Mount Pleasant, during what is a very uncertain time for us as the outcome of Birmingham City Council’s review is due any day.” said Worgan Trustee Julian Salmon.

“Here at Mount Pleasant what we offer is not an ‘adventure day-out’ but a carefully designed educational experience which complements the National Curriculum and enhances the children’s learning and understanding of agricultural and environmental issues.

“While we appreciate the council’s financial constraints, the Trust does not have the funds to replace the OLS teacher on an on-going basis, and therefore puts in jeopardy the future of an educational facility which has been enjoyed by and benefitted more than 400,000 children.

“I hope Mr Javid’s visit has given him a picture of the enjoyment the children get, and of the hard-work and dedication which goes into creating such a rare educational opportunity for children who might otherwise have little, or no, contact with the countryside.”

Mr Javid said having first hand-experience of the School Farm would help in his discussions with Birmingham City Council.

“I can say to them (BCC) I have been there and seen it for myself, and if some of the people in BCC who are decision makers haven’t seen it I would certainly encourage them to get out here and see what I have seen today.”

Pupils from Perry Beaches Junior School in Great Barr have been visiting Mount Pleasant School Farm for over 20 years, with the School Farm offering the inner city pupils an otherwise rare opportunity to experience the countryside.

Said Teacher Miss Samantha Hale, “This is like a ‘wow factor’ for us because you are stuck inside most of the time in the school - you have got to take every opportunity to get the children out. We then build upon what they have learnt during their visit when they get back to school.”

“It would be a travesty if the School Farm went, it really would because the children look forward to it every year and they pass it on to their siblings that there is a visit to the farm.”

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