The judging panel, including RHS Ambassador and founder of non-profit Grow2Know, Tayshan Hayden-Smith, RHS Young Ambassador and former competition winner, George Hassall, previous winner, teacher and founder of charity The Papillon Project, Matt Willer, and horticulturalist and Gardeners’ World presenter Frances Tophill, had the difficult job of picking the winners from fifteen finalists, which had been whittled down from hundreds of entries.
The national competition returned this year after a short hiatus, looking to find the most inspiring school pupils and adults who are making a difference in their school and local area through a love of gardening.
The 2023 winners are:
RHS School Gardening Team of the Year (primary): Sir Alexander Fleming Primary School, Telford, Shropshire
The whole-school gardening approach and enthusiasm from teachers and pupils at Sir Alexander Fleming Primary School impressed the judges. The team have transformed their outdoor space into a diverse, beautiful garden with a no-dig wildlife meadow, tree planting, bog garden, raised beds and wild corners. Their work has grown from a small group to a whole-school initiative and teachers have noticed the boost the garden has brought to children’s wellbeing, self-confidence and resilience.
RHS School Gardening Team of the Year (secondary): Sandhill View Academy, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear
Sandhill View Academy’s eco team of 30 students from years 7-11, guided by teacher, Aidan Hodgson, have created a space where they can grow zero food miles produce and increase biodiversity within the school grounds. The judges were wowed by the range of young people that use the garden, allowing the whole school to benefit, and the high levels of engagement from the children. The garden incorporates a ‘no pressure zone’ where students can be free and just appreciate the space.
RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year: Felicity Sturge, Guildford High School, Surrey
Felicity Sturge, a Maths and Politics teacher at Guildford High School, has transformed an unloved patch of land into a thriving school garden filled with flowers, fruit and vegetables for students to enjoy in just two years. Judges were keen to recognise Felicity’s efforts to share the garden with children beyond her school. She welcomes children from 13 local primary schools to come and experience outdoor learning, providing a huge benefit for the wider community.
The winners will receive a Hartley Botanic patio glasshouse for their schools, as well as £500 in National Garden Gift Vouchers. The prizes will be presented in a visit from Frances Tophill.
Alana Cama, Schools and Groups Programme Manager, said:
“This year’s finalists and winners are so impressive and uplifting. We were bowled over by the teams of children and young people across the UK who are learning new life skills, encouraging biodiversity and sustainability and experiencing the benefits of giving gardening a go – whether that be making new friends or feeling happier in themselves. This competition celebrates these achievements and those of the adults who, on a daily basis, champion more and more children and young people to pick up tools, garden, grow and care for plants.”
The RHS School Gardeners of the Year competition forms part of the RHS Campaign for School Gardening which provides free resources and advice to 29,000 schools and groups across the UK: www.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening
Further details on this year’s winners and finalists can be found at: www.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening/nationalwinners