The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Planting the seeds of a sustainable future

Success of pilot agriculture programme brings new opportunities to Highland schools

Mr Swinney is shown how to plant pumpkins under the watchful eye of Richard Jones, Tasha Morrison and Katie BrimsDespite the farming, food and drink sector offering many job opportunities, relatively few young people have chosen it as a career path in recent years. With the average age of the British farmer now hitting 60, Nairn Academy has launched a new initiative to try and reverse this trend and get more young people into the farming, food and drink sectors.

The school has teamed up with Farmer Jones Academy, which was set up by Richard Jones and Sarah Mackenzie, who both have a passion for opening up the world of farming to the next generation. Their latest initiative follows a successful pilot in 2018/19, which introduced S4-S6 pupils to farming through a mixed programme of practical growing and food production classes, as well as business lessons on how to then market and sell the products.

In what is a fully integrated programme, the food grown by pupils is used daily by the school’s Beach Café, set up as part of the Farmer Jones initiative. The café is operated by Highland Catering, who run the school catering services, assisted by senior pupils, giving them the opportunity to gain employability skills in a safe and relaxed environment while also providing young people with a space to socialise.

Mr Swinney with apprentice Jasmin IascarSarah Abenheimer, Deputy Rector at Nairn Academy said: “Working with the Farmer Jones Academy has allowed us to widen our curriculum, adding more varied options and qualifications relevant to local employers. It has been a springboard for sustainability, encouraging us to make new links. Pupils enjoy working in realistic work settings and learning from a wider range of professionals and community members.”

Growing on fertile ground

The triumph of the programme led Farmer Jones Academy to successfully bid for 40 Foundation Apprenticeships in Food and Drink Technology, to be made available in the Highlands.

The Apprenticeships are open to senior pupils and will be delivered in five schools across the region. They will support the Scottish Government’s aim of doubling the size of the food and drink industry to £30bn within 10 years, with younger pupils offered gateway courses. To carry out the training, Farmer Jones Academy has become an SQA Accredited Centre, having successfully recruited experienced trainers and verifiers.