Chulmleigh Community College keeps its own sheep at on site smallholding.

CHULMLEIGH Community College is thought to be one of the first schools in the country to set up its own smallholding.

The college and the four primary schools in its academy trust – Chulmleigh, Burrington, Lapford and East Worlington – now has four acres, a small flock of sheep, chickens and a large vegetable patch.

A substantial polytunnel on the Chulmleigh Primary School site is being used to grow plants for Chulmleigh in Bloom, as well as flowers for the hanging baskets to hang around the school.

The college is now preparing an area so they can keep a few pigs and it is also hoped to keep a cow or two. There are also plans to get in some farm machinery so the students can study agricultural engineering.

The smallholding is already helping students with GCSEs and NVQs, as well as allowing them to gain practical experience.

“This is one of the best curriculum innovations that we have made,” said Chulmleigh executive head Michael Johnson.

“We have engaged a number of students who have a real interest in farming and agriculture in a way we have not been able to do before. This really motivates them.”

Mr Johnson said students could take a vocational qualification and a GCSE in core science and the college was partnering Bicton College to offer land-based studies from September.

Year 9 students Thomas Webber and Robert Latham both live on farms and plan to become farmers. They said helping out on the smallholding was good experience:

“It complements what I do at home,” said Thomas, “and it’s something to look forward to.

“I helped out with the lambing at lunchtime this year. I will also be sitting a GCSE at the end of it.”

The college has built a large timber barn on the site which is being officially named after long-serving governor Michael Wall at a special ceremony on July 12.