Neil Satoor with pupils from Wombridge Primary. Picture credit - Richard Stanton
Neil Satoor, a headteacher from Shropshire who helped turn around a failing school by putting food and farming at the heart of the curriculum, has been named the NFU’s Farming Champion of the Year at the Farmers Weekly Awards.
When Mr Satoor joined Wombridge Primary School in 2010, he felt pupils were 'disengaged' through a lack of discipline, poor communication and falling standards. There had been 96 exclusions in the three years before he arrived.
Now the school near Telford is flourishing. The latest OFSTED report praised it for creating a 'culture of high expectations where children are eager to learn because lessons are exciting'.
Central to the changes Neil and his teaching staff have made is putting food and farming at the heart of the school curriculum. All 245 pupils visit nearby Morrells Wood Farm, a family-run beef and sheep unit, once a term as part of the school’s ‘Farming Fridays’. Farmer and NFU member Derek Harper hosts the visits and is also a school governor.
The school has developed a farming curriculum where pupils have the opportunity, if they would like, to work towards bronze, silver and gold awards. They also have opportunities to cook with ingredients they’ve grown at the school.
Mr Satoor said: “With 47,000 rural jobs in our area, it makes complete sense for us as a school to pave the way for careers in food and farming.
“Creating a strong connection between pupils and their food is integral to our teaching at Wombridge; food and agriculture has a presence in all of our subjects – from the diets of the Romans to the science behind our farmed environment – and the kids really are engaged so it’s win-win.
“This award for me, the staff and the pupils, is a true honour. And I hope it sends a strong signal to both teachers and farmers on the exciting and important role that food and farming can play in primary education.”
Sponsored by the NFU, the Farming Champion award looks for someone who has been selfless in their efforts to strengthen British farming in the past 12 months.
Neil Satoor receiving the Farming Champion of the Year award. Picture credit - Ed Telling
NFU Deputy President Minette Batters said: "Neil is an inspirational headteacher who recognises the many opportunities that embedding farming and food into the curriculum can bring.
"The work he and his team do is great for the pupils' education, it's fun for them and it helps make them aware of how important farming is in managing our precious countryside and producing food for us all.
"The school is a shining example of how education and agriculture can successfully collaborate. The NFU would love to see this approach rolled out to schools across the nation.
"This award goes not only to Neil Satoor but to all the staff and pupils at Wombridge Primary School for being true farming champions."