Save Our Soils
Working in inner city school grounds has highlighted the troubles faced by our soils with two key issues being identified:
1) The problem of contaminated land which prevents schools from eating produce they grow directly in the ground due to soil contamination;
2) The problem that many inner city school grounds only have a very thin layer of top soil which has been added to cover up hard core making it difficult to grow anything other than grass in the ground.
These issues are commonplace in cities where new build schools have been built on top of the rubble of old schools and where industrial heritage has left tracts of contaminated land which have been rebuilt on.
Unfortunately local authorities, who used to hold a working knowledge of these issues, are increasingly losing their links to schools leaving a potentially hazardous gap in local knowledge about soil quality as inner city school staff and the organisations they employ to work in their grounds do not necessarily have the knowledge, or the skill set, to address the problems.
Simultaneously schools in post-industrial cityscapes are pushing to extend their outdoor learning, health and play opportunities through such programmes as food growing and Forest Schools. These activities are vital as a means for dealing with childhood health issues from obesity to malnutrition and also for supporting children’s sense of well-being.
This project is intended to contend with these issues: we want to make sure pupils are safe in their grounds and that they change their perception of soil is that it is a valuable resource we can learn to improve. The project cannot claim to ‘reclaim’ contaminated soils - this would be a very big and expensive task - but it will work with schools to develop short and potentially long-term sustainable solutions. Our development work with schools will contribute to the creation a set of easily accessible resources that will help them, and other schools, run cross-curriculum linked projects.
Working with Debdale Eco Centre in Gorton and a range of other experts dealing with soils, including the University of Manchester, construction firms building on contaminated land and local Councillors, the project will extend learning on soils with pupil-led Eco Teams and help schools build and implement an action plan that can make a difference to their soil.
We would like to thank Awards for All, the Postcode Lottery Trust and Garfield Weston who are funding the project.