About the Hextol Gardeners
Hextol is a charity which provides working opportunities for people who have a learning disability or mental health condition. The organisation trains people in a range of job skills. These services include catering, gardening, DIY, cleaning, office administration, decorating and packaging and distribution. Through these jobs they gain a sense of self-worth and purpose and have a way to contribute positively to society.
At Moorside Community Primary school we have been running a gardening service since July 2015, working with people with learning difficulties and providing them with valuable work experience. Our aims are broad: whilst we hope to support the horticultural education of our trainees to eventually lead to employment, we also work to develop their mental and physical wellbeing. Within the supportive environment of being part of a team working towards clear goals, trainees become more confident and enthusiastic to follow instruction and work alongside others. This leads them to have a confident approach to being in the workplace and developing their understanding of what is required in employment.
Here are some comments from trainees currently working with us:
“It’s fun and can be quite relaxing, I feel like I’m more safe here, working in gardens, than I am anywhere else. I like the tasks we do. I love the watering”- Wesley
“I like fresh air, everyone’s really nice. I like planting trees and digging”- Arthur
“It feels nice, the people are fun, I like doing the allotment. The bowling trips are good too. I look forward to it”- Nathan
“I enjoy the work, it’s given me some tips about work life balance. I like the people and I like litter picking”- Robert
Whilst our main focus is to train our gardening team, we have been working with teachers at both schools to involve the students in our projects in the school grounds. We have been working with the head teacher and teachers to ensure that we are creating spaces which are usable and benefit the students’ education. Alongside this, I have provided information to help the teachers use the spaces as part of the curriculum. This is in the form of documents which the teachers can continue to access via a shared drive.
We split our time between maintenance and projects. Our maintenance tasks include sweeping leaves in autumn, litter picking and tidying entrance areas, weeding borders and cutting back plants and hedges, maintaining willow structures, adding plants where needed and cutting small areas of grass.
Alongside this, we have completed a range of projects in the grounds, including:
- Creating a wildflower meadow on Moorside field
- Planting a fruit orchard
- Developing the Early Years area
- Planting trees and hedging plants
- Planting spring bulbs throughout the grounds and entrance area
Some of the projects we have worked on with students at the schools include:
- Establishing a wormery with Year 2
- Designing a front playground space with Year 4 with 60 students each designing and decorating a fence panel with the theme of attracting wildlife into the playground
- Hedge planting with reception students in the Early Years Area
All our trainees and staff have an enhanced DBS check and the terms of the service are set out in our Service Agreement.
Whilst we are proud of what we have already accomplished as a team, there is much more we hope to do
In the next few years we hope to:
- Develop the back playground area called ‘Susan’s Garden’ and run planting sessions with students in Years 1 and 2 to teach them about caring for plants and encouraging wildlife into the grounds
- Develop the front playground spaces and make the green spaces more usable and wildlife friendly
- Work with students to encourage wildlife into the grounds by creating bug hotels and making bird and bat boxes and monitor what visits the grounds
- Continue our work on the field, developing the meadow and installing a seating area in its centre
- Make a performance space in the far corner of the Moorside field with the help of year 5 students
We will continue to:
Keep the school tidy and well maintained
Improve areas which we have developed
Work with teachers to support the curriculum with our expertise and help to show them how outdoor education can be further embedded into the curriculum
Develop a year-round allotment programme and set up a weekly lunch club and after school parent child sessions
We thoroughly enjoy working Moorside and we hope that our work is as valuable for the school as it is for the trainees who volunteer with us.
The Hextol Foundation
14c Gilesgate, Hexham, NE46 3NJ – 01434 605253 – firstname.lastname@example.org – www.hextol.org.uk
Company no. 5896869 Registered charity: 1120857