Pupils Are Learning from the Animals at School; GO GREEN - School Farm Is Giving Children the Chance to Learn about Animal Husbandry as Well as Responsibility and the Environment

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THREE weeks ago Pepper and George were frolicking in their field at Cardinal Wiseman school, happy as pigs in mud.

Now, the pair of pedigree swines are premium pork sausages sitting in the school freezer.

That, claims teacher Sean O'Donovan, is one of the valuable lessons of a school farm.

"It's part of the learning process that some of the animals here are destined for the food chain," he said.

"The kids here see the practicalities of producing, and they're surprised how big the pigs get in six or seven months before they're sent for slaughter."

Tears were shed as pupils packed off their porky pals, but just four days later they returned as meaty treats.

And pupils and teachers at the school, in Potters Green Road, off Woodway Lane, can buy the school's own range of sausages, eggs and lamb burgers, all carrying the Cardinal Wiseman logo.

But vegetarian sixth-former Kayleigh Brooks admits she found it hard when Pepper and George's time was up.

She said: "I cried to watch them go.

"It was a bit of a shock to start with but I'm all right with it now because I know they've had a brilliant life here.

"Their paddock is huge and they've got a brook at the bottom where they can play in summer and cool off.

"On another farm they might have been in cramped spaces where they couldn't turn round or get the light.

"But here they were happy and I think that's part of the deal.

"We gave them a good life and they gave us good meat."

As well as pigs, the pupils look after horses, sheep, alpacas and goats, cockatiels, budgerigars and gerbils.

Their reptile collection includes snakes, lizards and a bearded dragon.

In the past, Twycross Zoo has sent animals to the school farm, and Customs and Excise donated a smuggled parrot.

Birmingham Botanic Gardens has given plants for the school gardens, where children are growing cotton, coffee and bananas as well as local fruit varieties including the Wyken Pippin apple.

Assistant head teacher Mr O'Donovan, said: "In the morning the pupils come in and feed every animal, change their water, sweep out the floor of the cages and generally play with them.

"The kids are the driving force. They love having the animals here and get a huge amount out of it."

After getting a biology degree, Mr O'Donovan trained as a rural studies teacher. He started the school farm 13 years ago.

"First we had rabbits and then chickens," he said.

"Then we got goats and that was quite a big leap. They escaped a couple of times.

"It's funny when visitors come and don't realise we've got a farm. They suddenly see a child walking through the car park with an alpaca.

"Every one of our Ofsted reports has highlighted the farm as a real strength of the school.

"I think if you can get kids to take responsibility for caring for animals, the chances are they will become responsible adults. …