Pupils at a specialist school for children with autism got to care for a ewe and her lambs.

Following its success in 2023, the South of England Agricultural Society‘s Loan a Lamb scheme returned this year, reaching thousands of primary school children across Surrey and Sussex.

This year, ten primary schools are participating, four of which hosted the scheme from March 18 to 22. The remaining six schools will participate after the Easter break, from April 22 to 26.

At New Barn School, Horsham, the initiative had a significant impact on the students‘ understanding of agriculture and its contribution to people’s lives and was built into the school’s learning for the week across science, geography, art, history, and more.

The scheme, held in partnership with local farmers, with educational support from LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) Education and financial support from the East Sussex Proficiency Test Committee and Yeowart Agricultural, involves school staff and students caring for a ewe and her lambs for a week.

The Argus: A ewe and her lambA ewe and her lamb (Image: South of England Agricultural Society)

Providing hands-on experience with livestock and agriculture, the schools are loaned a hutch and supplied with all the tools and information needed to care for the animals, made possible through the cooperation of five local sheep breeders.

The Argus: Pupils got stuck inPupils got stuck in (Image: South of England Agricultural Society)

A teacher briefing was held with representatives from participating schools, providing further information and training, including details on sheep care, biosecurity, health and safety, and emergency procedures.

Joanne Hatton from LEAF attended to answer questions and provide support, together with the farmers supplying the sheep, as well as teachers from last year’s programme, who shared their experience of the project.

The Argus: Pupils feeding the lambsPupils feeding the lambs (Image: South of England Agricultural Society)

Phil Brunton, nurture lead at New Barn School, said: “We have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of Loan a Lamb.

"Our school caters for pupils with high-functioning autism, and the presence of the sheep was a form of animal therapy for them.

“Prior to the animals arriving, we had already named the lambs Pickles and Skittles. The pupils enjoyed being involved by mucking out, feeding the animals and ensuring that they were well cared for. We enjoyed excellent communication with the farmer, who was always on hand to answer any of our queries.”