If you are new to hosting visits from schoolchildren, you will have lots of questions. Don’t be daunted! You will find here an easy to follow step by step approach covering everything from health and safety to activity ideas. All of this information and more is covered in greater depth in the Countryside Education Visits Accreditation Scheme (CEVAS) offered by Access To Farms. We thoroughly recommend you consider taking this course.
You need sufficient people to support teachers and adult helpers during the visit, in particular for proper supervision of animal contact. Be aware of child protection issues, and check the requirements of visiting schools. You should have a safeguarding policy in place and ensure you are not left alone with children.
You need appropriate training for everyone working with the visitors. We recommend every farm opening for visits has a person in place who is CEVAS accredited.
Once you have accomplished a few successful visits you can explore ways to expand and develop what you are able to offer. Here are some ideas:
Building on your success
Different age groups. It is more difficult to attract older children as more teachers have to be involved, but secondary schools can be interested in cross-curricular days, or visits tailored to specific subjects such as food and nutrition or business studies.
Children with special needs – this may include physical disabilities, learning difficulties or emotional and behavioural issues. Care Farming for Education project may be a source of help and inspiration.
Craft sessions, many of which can take place indoors or out.
Themed activities – for example tied in to historical events, anniversaries or heritage.
Tailor-made elements to suit individual schools.
An Open Farm Sunday event to raise your profile and showcase what you have to offer.
Teaming up with another local site such as a nature reserve to offer joint visits. These may be owned by local community groups, or try the Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, National Trust, Forestry Commission or Natural England.
If you have completed a CEVAS course in the last 5 years, consider signing up to a CEVAS Plus course.
Write to the teachers to thank them for visiting and asking for an evaluation.
Send the teacher some photos of the day to show to the pupils or for display on the staff room notice board.
If you have a website, and have permission from the school, post some photos on your site with a short comment from you about the visit.
Offer to go to the school a few months after the visit, or during the winter, to talk about what is happening on the farm.
Forming a lasting relationship
Sustainable relationships with schools ensure that you get repeat visits and also lead to good word-of-mouth recommendations.
Encouraging more visits
Organise a free taster session for local teachers. Arrange this after school, say 4.30pm, and provide refreshments. Use the opportunity to showcase what you can offer, answer questions and dispel worries. Early autumn is a good time when there is still lots of daylight and you can hope to generate bookings for the spring and summer.
Use social media to promote your farm: tweet about interesting events, or write a blog for one of your animals.
Contact Access To Farms members who can give you advice and help you promote your farm visits. View ATF partners
Consider joining Farmer Time which is all about harnessing the power of digital communications to inspire, engage and educate young people about not only the journey from farm to fork but also the everchanging, diverse agricultural industry. Children regularly chat live to their matched farmer from their classrooms through FaceTime or Skype, discuss ideas, ask questions, share knowledge and gain a ‘real-time’ understanding of the issues farmers face every day. https://leaf.eco/farmertime
Try to provide something tangible for the pupils to take away with them, perhaps something for a follow-up activity such as seeds to grow, or materials for craft work.
Show schools that there is too much to see in one visit and encourage them to work their way through your programme. Demonstrate that you can cover a range of curriculum subjects which helps schools justify a repeat visit.
Make the most of social media!
Ask the school to produce materials such as bunting, hand prints or pictures of the farm to decorate your classroom or other covered area.