Schools offered video tales of life on the land

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PRIMARY teachers are being encouraged to sign up for a regular free video bulletin from farming and the countryside, produced by a Yorkshire partnership.

The 10-minute videos will be supported by notes to help to link the content with the various key stages of the national curriculum at primary level and also with the obligations of the popular Eco Schools Award.

Former pig farmer and practising teacher Mark Thompson is putting the packages together in collaboration with Julie Langdale, education officer at the Stockbridge Technology Centre at Cawood, near Selby, which does research for growers and organises growing lessons for children.

Both partners are putting a lot of free labour into being ready to launch the project when schools restart in September. If they get the interest, they hope to fix sponsorship or persuade schools to come up with a small fee to carry on getting the material after the trial year.

The idea is to produce one package a fortnight to start with. Samples, made in April and May this year, are available at

Mr Thompson, 47, grew up on the family pig farm at Market Weighton, worked there for 20 years and still lives there.

But eventually he added a teaching certificate to his agriculture degree from Newcastle and went his own way, teaching science and IT at secondary level in Howden from about 2000.

He still teaches on a supply basis but has built up a business, Video-Edge, making marketing videos, mainly for rural businesses.

He first combined the two interests by using film of piglets being born in his own lessons. Since then, he has organised a lot more clips from farms into a resource for schools at

He met Graham Ward, chief executive of Stockbridge, at an industry-in-education event and was introduced to Stockbridge staff to talk about collaborating on a kind of diary of the year, specifically aimed at schools, taking in work done at Stockbridge and various other farms and reports from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

They produced the first two sample bulletins in March and April – featuring lambing, rooks nesting and the planting of peas and potatoes – and are now preparing for the full launch in September. See the Discovering Our Countryside website or email or Farmers are also wanted, to suggest topics and volunteer for filming.

Mr Thompson said: “I have had quite a lot of interest in this sort of material from teachers in the past, but they try it and then they forget about it or they get too busy to take it in as an extra. We think the key is to give them something that is already prepared and which fits into what they already have to do.

“Ten minutes once a fortnight means they do not have to replan to take it in. It can be easily linked into the curriculum and national initiatives such as ‘sustainable schools’ and ‘healthy schools’ that they need to discuss anyway.”

Network members sought

STOCKBRIDGE is also looking for farmers who want to learn more about the rest of the world. It is seeking 18 business representatives to make up the Food & Farming Entrepreneurs Network, to lead “knowledge transfer” from academics with a world vision of sustainability issues down to Yorkshire producers.

A first conference is scheduled for September 15, funded by Defra and the European Community.

Contact Graham Ward ( or Mike Keeble (