The Farm at Abbotsholme

Abbotsholme School is one of the very few schools in the country to have a working farm. Pupils of all ages experience working on the farm. Integrating the farm and estate into pupils’ daily lives helps us to deliver our vision of providing a genuinely broad education. Abbotsholme Farm is far more than buildings, land, machinery and animals; it is a living library where lessons for life are learnt.

The farm is an important learning resource, linking food production to environmentally responsible farming, which is a predominant aspect of modern agriculture in the 21st century. The farm is located on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border; the farmland consists of rolling countryside leading down to the floodplain of the river Dove. The farmland extends to approximately 74 acres. 66 acres are devoted to permanent pasture, which is managed extensively, with low inputs of farmyard manure. Of this, 20 acres are harvested for winter fodder and the remainder is grazed by a sucker herd of British White cattle, and beef stores, 50 ewes with their lambs and the school’s horses.

The farmland also contains eight acres of woodland, consisting of established, semi-natural woodland in the dingles and a relatively new plantation on the eastern edge of the farm. Hedgerows form an important area for wildlife habitats and food for birds, insects and mammals.

Commercial beef calves are purchased every autumn and are fatten through the winter as part of the sixth form agriculture courses. The sheep flock consists of pedigree Hampshire Down ewes and a variety of crossbreds. The lambs are fattened for meat. They are weighed by pupils, to compare growth rates between pedigree and crossbreds. There are also piglets, chickens and we rear turkeys for Christmas.

All pupils from the juniors to Year 9 have periods on their timetable allocated to farm activities, in a rotation system. For older pupils, the Agriculture Department offers two courses which make extensive use of the farm. In years 10 and 11 the students study the BTEC Level 2 in Agriculture and in the Sixth Form a BTEC Level 3 course in agriculture is offered, which is a vocational course preparing pupils for either college or university entrance or direct entry to work. Pupils work on the farm and most of the assignments are case study based.

Some pupil volunteers rise early to be on the farm at 7.30 a.m., assisting with daily animal husbandry (feeding, watering, cleaning out and health checks) before joining the rest of the pupils for chapel and academic lessons.

Lambing duty at the end of February/beginning of March is always very popular option, as pupils want to be involved with bringing new life into the world. This includes being on call overnight, to be on hand to assist with deliveries and look after the newborn lambs.

Pupils aspiring to become vets can spend as much time on the farm as they can fit into their timetable. They are taught how to handle livestock, perform some minor veterinary tasks and assist in lambing of the ewes.

Farm activities contribute towards the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Pupils will work on a range of tasks to support the school farm, including animal husbandry, planting hedges and routine repair and maintenance work around the school farm.

Besides all the work and learning that goes on there, the farm also makes a great contribution to the aesthetic atmosphere of the school. The beautiful trees, the green fields and the grazing animals definitely help to create a peaceful rural atmosphere in which the rest of pupils’ learning and growth can flourish.

 

24.11.17

English Winter Fair 2017

Last weekend Tom Bridge and his farm studens were at the English Winter Fair showing sheep all weekend and were amazing. We placed in every class we entered, which is quite an achievement, especially when you consider that they were competing a...

24.11.17

Year 1 & 2 on the Farm

Year 7 have been helping to prepare the Abbotsholme turkeys for the Staffordshire Winter Fair. Under the carful instruction of Mrs Brown and Farmer Tom, they plucked the birds and will be working on preparing them for the show this weekend. Year 1...

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