Press release: Schoolchildren to help plant a million native British trees

As part of the manifesto commitment to plant 11 million trees over the next Parliament, the government has announced its intention to provide one million to be planted in a community programme with local schools.

The Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss launched the first phase of the scheme, which will provide up to 45,000 native British trees for schools, at Elmhurst Primary School today.

Working together with The Woodland Trust the project will initially be open to 7,000 state-funded primary schools in England, which will receive native trees including cherry, silver birch, hawthorn and hazel. This follows the government’s planting of 11 million trees since 2010.

The scheme will give young children the chance to understand and connect with nature, and play a role in making their school grounds and local communities cleaner and greener.

Not only will this benefit the local environment, but it will also support the new national curriculum to ensure children can identify iconic native trees like the Oak. Together, this will help the next generation to understand the benefits of a healthy environment for our prosperity and wellbeing.

Calling on schools to take part in the project Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

From the Oak to the Mountain Ash, our fantastic native trees are crucial to our growing economy and a healthy, natural environment.

Already we have more tree cover in the UK than at any time since the 14th Century, but it’s vital that young school children feel a part of this natural history and connected to the environment.

This is a great opportunity to get them involved and I want to see as many schools as possible take up this offer so pupils can enjoy the experience of growing a tree and creating green spaces.

Children from participating schools will be given the opportunity to learn about different types of trees before planting saplings in their school grounds, local parks or open spaces – with an opportunity to monitor their growth.

Lending his support to the scheme, Schools Minister Nick Gibb added:

As part of our plan to extend opportunity to all young people, we want children to leave school with a wider knowledge of the world around them – as well as strong academic qualifications.

The new primary curriculum requires children to be taught to identify a wide variety of plants and trees in their first years of school. Defra’s tree planting initiative will provide schools with real life examples of a number of species of tree and how they are planted and grown.

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of The Woodland Trust said:

These children might never otherwise get a chance to plant a tree, but with this additional funding from Defra they’re going to get that chance. And that’s vitally important. We know from our research it’s a memory they’ll treasure for years to come, and often starts their relationship off with the natural world and all the benefits that brings.

This scheme offers schools that have found it hard in the past a new way to plant trees and bring an oasis of green into their community.

By offering the potential to extend the scheme in years to come, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss is also showing her department’s recognition of the intrinsic value of trees and nature to young people and their future.

The school tree planting project will build on the Woodland Trust’s existing work to plant trees in schools and further afield via its Community & Schools Tree Packs, which have delivered 5.9 million new trees since 2010.

Further information

For images of the tree plant, please see Flickr.

Flickr album shows Elmhurst pupils: Lana Izotenko, Vihdi Mehta, Ruqayyah Qureshi, Abia Thangal, Ayan Thangal and Nousheen Islam.

Woodland Trust

  • The Woodland Trust is welcoming applications from state-funded primary schools until 8 January 2016. You can apply for a tree pack.
  • Schools that qualify will receive a pack of 30 young trees, enough to create a small copse or hedge. Packs will be delivered in spring next year.
  • The Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.
    Government tree planting.
  • Since 2010, the government has funded the planting of at least 11 million trees, reinvigorating existing woodlands, planting new forests and copses, together with individual trees in urban areas. For example, the Forestry Commission’s Big Tree Plant supported communities to plant over one million new trees since 2011.
  • This pilot is in addition to the government’s existing pledge to plant a further 11 million trees before 2020 through the Rural Development Programme for England. A total of £31m per year of new Rural Development Programme funding will be spent on forestry, with £13m being spent on woodland management and £18m on new planting.

Elmhurst Primary School

  • The Environment Secretary planted a wild cherry tree to mark the launch of the scheme: visit the Woodland Trust for more information.
  • Elmhurst is a large primary, with 1000 pupils, in the London borough of Newham.
  • At Elmhurst Primary the children dug in their saplings to overwinter in a raised bed eco garden. Next year their hedgerow pack will be planted into its final position.

Educational Benefits

  • Good from Woods Case Study.
  • For more information, please contact the Defra press office on 0207 239 1542 or the Woodland Trust press office on 01476 581121.
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