Lambs loaned to primary schools to help inspire farmers of tomorrow

WATCH: ITV News Meridian’s Kit Bradshaw reports on the project pairing schools with sheep

More than 1,000 schoolchildren have been able to experience caring for lambs over a week-long pilot project.

The ‘loan-a-lamb’ initiative saw five primary schools in Surrey and Sussex look after a ewe and her young offspring.

The sheep lived in donated shelters and temporary pens on school grounds.

Pupils and staff were responsible for keeping the animals fed and watered.

Crawley Down Village C of E Primary School was one of five establishments to take part in the pilot ‘loan a lamb’ project.

The scheme ran from 21 to 25 March and was organised by the South of England Agricultural Society, which took inspiration from a similar project in Norfolk.

It aimed to give youngsters “practical experience in the complexity of caring for ewes and their lambs”.

Claire Fry, a higher level teaching assistant at Crawley Down Village C of E School, told ITV News Meridian that the project had been an “amazing” experience. 

“They’ve fed them, they've mucked them out, they’ve made sure they’ve got water. For some of these children, even though it’s a village school, they haven’t been this close [to sheep] before,” she added.

The project was run at no cost to the schools involved, with all the relevant feed and equipment provided.

The animals were donated for the five days by farms in Tandridge and Lewes. The schools were issued with factsheets from the farmers about their farm and practices, which included information about feeding, bedding, maintenance, and welfare. 

Headteacher Oliver Burcombe confirmed that some 400 children had been given the chance to meet the ewe and her lambs.

“We’ve got Plumpton College close to us, which offers all sorts of agricultural courses. As the children get older, if that's the area they want to move into, we could be the start of that journey”, Mr Burcombe added. 

WATCH: School children discuss what they like most about sheep

Alan Smith, a trustee at the South of England Agricultural Society, said: “Everyone involved gained so much from sharing the experience, from children learning how healthy sheep behave to farmers hearing how the children and their teachers coped with their new responsibilities for the week.

“We hope that we are able to roll out this scheme more widely next year to bring some of the countryside into the classroom and help more children learn about farming and where their food comes from.”

Feeding, mucking out, and petting the sheep all formed part of the curriculum of their stay at the schools.

This year’s pilot scheme involved schools in Crawley Down, Lingfield, East Grinstead, Little Horsted and East Hoathly. It is hoped 10 different schools will take part next year. 

The schools were provided with all the necessary equipment and training to safely house and feed the livestock for the duration of their stay.