Scores of fruit trees being planted at South Tyneside schools as part of new green scheme
Every school in the borough is eligible for the trees, which are to be planted in school grounds by pupils and teachers.
The trees, supplied by South Tyneside Council, are all varieties of edible fruit-bearing species – mainly apples and pears.
Cllr Ernest Gibson, lead member for Area Management and Community Safety, with responsibility for climate change, said the scheme complements the minimum 3,000 trees the council has pledged to plant as part of its ‘investment in the natural environment’.
“Fruit trees represent a huge opportunity for schools,” he said.
"They provide direct benefit to our climate and natural environment; sequestering carbon in the long-term, improving air quality and providing a habitat for wildlife.
“They also provide a fantastic learning opportunity for pupils; demonstrating where food comes from, bringing the classroom outside and into nature, benefitting physical and mental health and engaging pupils in eating and cooking seasonal produce.
“We’ve recently launched our climate change toolkit for schools, and this is about us supporting schools on their learning journey.”
Trees are available free of charge to schools for a limited period to take advantage of the planting season for fruit trees.
The council is hoping the fruit trees will mark the start of a new outdoor learning chapter for its schools, and potentially the start of borough-wide school orchards.
There will be a minimum of one tree available for every school. Depending on uptake, some schools may have the opportunity to receive several trees with which they can create their own small ‘learning’ orchards.
Alison Burden, head teacher at Marine Park School, one of those to get a tree, said: “We are delighted to receive one of these trees. Fruit trees will bring many benefits to our school grounds, aesthetically and practically, as they blossom in springtime, bear fruit in autumn and provide shade and shelter throughout the year.”
Cllr Gibson said all schools signing up to receive a tree are playing their part in creating a Sustainable South Tyneside.
He added: “We’re striving to become a carbon neutral council by 2030, but we’ve also promised to lead by example.
“We have a moral obligation to act now, before it is too late, and it is crucial that we educate and empower children to make a change.”
South Tyneside Council produced a climate change toolkit to help school staff educate the borough’s next generation about environmental issues.
It contains practical advice and guidance all in one place to teach children about the causes of climate change and the actions that can be taken to create a more sustainable future.
The kit identifies opportunities to drive down carbon emissions while enhancing the school’s natural environment as well as suggested activities to help reduce their carbon footprint, such as promoting active travel, tree planting, setting up composting and a food growing space, reducing waste and recycling more.
Schools that are interested in receiving a tree should contact the Carbon Reduction and Sustainability team at [email protected]
In July 2019, South Tyneside Council declared a climate emergency. Since then it has developed a comprehensive climate change strategy, backed by a five-year action plan.