Spire first to win Forestry award

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Spire Infant School, on Derby Road, Chesterfield, has become the first ever to be receive a Royal Forestry Society Schools Highly Commended Award after its Woodlands for Wildlife project impressed judges.

Schools from a region spanning Derbyshire to North London and East Anglia took take part in the RFS Schools Award, which encourages and rewards those that increase understanding and appreciation of the environmental, social and economic potential of woodlands and of the link between trees and everyday wood products.

Judging the 2011 competition, Susannah Podmore, forest education initiative co-ordinator for England, said: “Spire’s Woodland for Wildlife project included a tree planting project and created a woodland walk that has transformed the school field.

“The young children we spoke to were able to identify the trees planted and talk about the importance of trees and wood.

“The links to the curriculum in maths, literacy, RE and science were displayed in the school and were apparent from the discussions with the teachers. The Forest School programme we saw in action was also inspiring and professionally led.”

Spire will get ten native trees from the Forestry Commission to plant.

Head Jane Garrett says: “We are thrilled to be commended – this will give us the spur to continue improving our provision in terms of working in our developing woodland, with wood and with eco projects.”

She said it had reminded teachers of the value of working to a less rigid curriculum.

The Woodland for Wildlife project was kick-started by a Big Lottery Breathing Places Grant in 2007.

In 2008 the school planted 50 trees to create a woodland area and a further 22 fruit trees were planted in their fruit and vegetable area.

Since then the scheme has included an art and design project inspired by British artist Andy Goldsworthy.

l Pictured are children from Spire Infant School with RFS Schools award judges Susannah Podmore and fellow judge Mike Flinn.