Following great success in 2023, the South of England Agricultural Society‘s Loan a Lamb scheme has returned this year, reaching thousands of primary school children across Surrey and Sussex.

 This year, 10 primary schools are participating, four of which hosted the scheme from 18th to 22nd March. The remaining six schools will participate after the Easter break, from 22nd to 26th April.

A notable highlight was the inclusion of New Barn School, a specialist school for children with autism, marking its inaugural involvement in the scheme. The initiative had a significant impact on the students‘ understanding of agriculture and its contribution to our lives and was built into the school’s learning for the week across science, geography, art, history, and more.

The Loan a Lamb scheme, held in partnership with local farmers, with educational support from LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) Education and financial support from the East Sussex Proficiency Test Committee and Yeowart Agricultural, involves school staff and students caring for a ewe and her lambs for a week. Providing hands-on experience with livestock and agriculture, the schools are loaned a hutch and supplied with all the tools and information needed to care for the animals, made possible through the cooperation of five local sheep breeders.

A teacher briefing was held with representatives from participating schools, providing further information and training, including details on sheep care, biosecurity, and health and safety, and emergency procedures. Joanne Hatton from LEAF attended to answer questions and provide support, together with the farmers supplying the sheep, as well as teachers from last year’s programme, who shared their experience of the project.

Phil Brunton, Nurture Lead at New Barn School, said: ”We have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of Loan a Lamb. Our school caters for pupils with high-functioning autism, and the presence of the sheep was a form of animal therapy for them. Prior to the animals arriving, we had already named the lambs Pickles and Skittles. The pupils enjoyed being involved by mucking out, feeding the animals and ensuring that they were well cared for. We enjoyed excellent communication with the farmer, who was always on hand to answer any of our queries.

“It is crucial to get children involved in agriculture at a young age,” said Alan Smith from the South of England Agricultural Society’s Education Committee and Trustee of the charity. “The Loan a Lamb scheme is an exciting and educational opportunity for students in Surrey and Sussex. It provides a unique chance for students to learn about the importance of farming in producing our food and other products we use in day-to-day life.”

Alan continued: “As a Society, we’re very proud to say that we have been running the scheme for three years now, reaching over 8,000 students, and every year it’s lovely to see the schools and their children so invested in looking after the sheep. I genuinely believe it has such a positive impact not only on the children but also on our local communities.ˮ

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