Old Park Primary and Nursery School in Malinslee has been awarded a licence by Telford & Wrekin Council to use an area of land bordering the school to create a nature-friendly outdoor classroom.
The 1.6-acre site has been left untouched since the former St Leonard’s County Infant School was demolished in 2007 and has become a hive of biodiversity that offers a resource for the school to enrich its children’s learning and wellbeing.
The school was the first in the county to sign up to the Nature Friendly Schools project, which champions the benefits of outdoor learning.
Led by the Royal Society for Wildlife Trusts, the project is funded by the Department for Education and Defra with support from Natural England. It is a scheme working with 10 partner organisations in some of the most disadvantaged areas of England.
Ellie Leach of Shropshire Wildlife Trust said the initiative lays the foundations for active learning, academic resilience and healthy young people who want to learn about and protect the natural world.
She said: “This is not just about one-off large-scale outdoor activities; this is about equipping teachers with the confidence and resources to benefit pupils’ health and wellbeing through sustained and regular connection with nature. Five minutes here, a quick lesson there, makes all the difference.”
The fact that the meadow is on the school’s doorstep will open up opportunities for natural leaning as part of its curriculum.
Headteacher Mandie Haywood said: “We don’t have to organise a visit somewhere, we can just go out the door into our own wild and wonderful outdoor learning space.
“The meadow is completely natural and we want to leave it that way. How often do children get to run through a field of long grass? They will be able explore, go on bug hunts, examine the plant life, build dens and generally let their imaginations go wild.
“I am so grateful to Ellie and the Shropshire Wildlife Trust for all their support and to Telford & Wrekin Council for granting us a licence to use the meadow, it will transform our opportunities for learning and play.”
Councillor Shaun Davies, leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, said: “Nature Friendly Schools is a brilliant scheme that our schools in Telford and Wrekin have been quick to embrace.
“The pandemic has disrupted education and been a challenge for us all, but being able to get outside and be closer to nature makes all the difference to our health and wellbeing. I am genuinely delighted that we have been able to support the school for the benefit of the children now and hopefully for many years to come.”
Councillor Kuldip Sahota, of Malinslee and Dawley Bank ward, added: “I am very proud that we have been able to support this project. Children everywhere have struggled with their mental wellbeing because of the pandemic and the meadow will provide the children at Old Park Primary with the space they need to help them recover through learning and playing together.”
Officers from Telford & Wrekin Council and Shropshire Wildlife Trust will continue to support the school on its Nature Friendly Schools journey over the coming months. They will be helping with tree management tasks and installing a gateway into the meadow from the school grounds so the children have easy access without having to leave the school site.
Schools interested in hearing more about the Nature Friendly Schools scheme can visit naturefriendlyschools.co.uk