Animals ruling the roost at Burnley school

Children acting the goat at school may be a common occurrence; children feeding the goats at school certainly is not.

That is unless you are a pupil at Sir John Thursby Community College where pupils and staff have transformed the school grounds into their very own farm.

Sir John Thursby Community College pupils with their animals'Photo Kelvin Stuttard

Sir John Thursby Community College pupils with their animals'Photo Kelvin Stuttard

Goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, even Fred and Ashley the peacocks roam the playground there while one classroom is dedicated solely to housing a variety of exotic species.

Science teacher Val Anderson, who is also the school’s rural dimension co-ordinator, helps keep the animals in check as well as the children and said the unbelievable facilities provide a unique and practical learning experience.

“We started with it about seven years ago, when we were Walshaw High School,” said Mrs Anderson. “We had a company coming in to show animals to the children every Science Week. We suggested maybe buying some of our own animals to help reduce costs. The headteacher agreed and the first thing we got were giant African land snails.”

The giant land snails have since been joined by fish, turtles, tarantulas, bearded dragons, stick insects, a chipmunk and Monty the python.

The animals make for a fun and fascinating feature but they are also very much part of the curriculum.

Pupils are able to take a BTEC in animal care as well as horticulture with greenhouses and poly tunnels also dotted around the school site.

Modules cover taking care of the exotics, the aquatics, housing the animals and how to feed them.

“We grow our own spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lots of things,” said Mrs Anderson. “We feed the animals with the food we grow and sell the rest. We also sell the eggs from the chickens in the staff room.

“Most of the parents say they can’t believe what we do here. It’s fantastic for when we have open evenings and the children just love it. The senior leadership team have been really supportive as well of what we do.

“We have Animal Club every Wednesday and Friday lunchtime. It’s great for the children. The peacocks just walk around the yard with them and in the summer we bring the goats out, walk them round and they can feed them. We also take the animals out to primary schools around Burnley and Nelson, so the younger children from the all around the area can learn about them. We’re closing in on full capacity now but we may look at getting something else in the future.”

For now though everybody’s attention is focused firmly on another special arrival due soon. Sheep Lucy and Lexi are expecting lambs in the next couple of weeks and Mrs Anderson said the whole school was looking forward to the big day.

“We can’t wait. Everybody’s excited. With them being pregnant it’s enabled the pupils to learn about looking after them under different conditions.

“The whole setup is unique to this area. There aren’t any other schools locally doing something like this and it really is great for the children.”