UK schools can now apply for The Tree Council’s Young Tree Champions (YTC) programme, with free trees and hedgerows, inspirational resources, and lots of support available to develop green spaces – and grant children opportunities to feel connected to nature.
Since 2020, The Tree Council’s flagship education programme has worked with more than 400 school and youth groups, planted nearly 12,000 trees and hedgerow whips at close to 300 schools, and engaged almost 120,000 UK pupils in total.
The programme speaks to four of the key 21st century challenges faced by schools and school pupils: nature-poor grounds; rising eco-anxiety; a knowledge and skills gap around tree health and horticulture; and limited opportunities to influence positive change, particularly in areas of high deprivation.
Richard Pollard is Head of The Tree Council’s National Schools Programme, he said: “It’s so important that young people have opportunities to plant and care for trees, to feel like they are able to make a positive contribution to their environment, and to find the courage to speak up for what matters to them.”
Young Tree Champions has a number of entry points, depending on requirements and available resources.
Schools new to the scheme can begin by applying for a Tree Starter Pack, delivering five free trees – including fruit trees – and/or a pack of 60 hedgerow whips, and supported by free, online training around planning, planting and aftercare, alongside access to free teaching resources, and our free, online Schools Hub.
The next step up is to apply for a Trees and More Project Pack. Successful schools will receive free trees, technology – such as a microscope camera – and ongoing support to deliver a minimum of four tree-related activities over the year, including tree planting.
Young Tree Champion Schools can then seek to achieve Beacon status through the completion of a YTC project, and a subsequent self-assessment that demonstrates the impact of their work and confirms their continuing commitment to trees and nature.
Beacon Schools gain access to a Tree Council regional leader; more trees, hedgerow whips and technology; free trips and experiences – and the opportunity to contribute to the touring Force for Nature exhibition. They are also able to influence the wider YTC programme, through the National Forum, and host and lead training events.
In total, 15 new Beacon Schools were announced in 2023, located right across the country, from Stirling to Kent, with three schools achieving Outstanding Beacon School Status.
Emma Sweeney, at Rolph Church of England Primary School in Clacton-on-Sea, said: “Children and staff are very proud to be an Outstanding Beacon School.
“Being part of the Young Tree Champions has enabled our staff, pupils and their families to connect with nature – all children in our school benefit from regular timetabled outdoor learning and forest school sessions.”
To find out more about The Tree Council’s Young Tree Champions programme, and to apply for your free trees and tailored support, please visit https://youngtreechampions.org/. The closing date for applications is November 12 2023.