Katrina Barclay: Good reasons to celebrate as Royal Highland Education Trust reaches 21

Next year, 2020, will see Scotland’s countryside education charity, RHET (The Royal Highland Education Trust) celebrate its 21st birthday.

Over 70,000 children will visit a working farm, or benefit from a classroom activity on food and farming, while roughly 300 school groups visit the RHS each June

RHET was established in 1999 as the educational charity of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland working with volunteers to provide free educational activities and experiential learning opportunities for Scotland’s children. Arranging farm visits and classroom education, together with the provision of teacher training and educational resources, RHET’s purpose is to bring farming, the working countryside and its practices to life for young people.

Working with partners, RHET provides and delivers world-leading learning opportunities for all of Scotland’s young people aged 3 to 18, in and through the Scottish agricultural environment and the countryside.

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RHET aims to provide the opportunity for every child in Scotland to learn about food, farming and the countryside promoting a wider understanding of the environmental, economic and social realities of rural Scotland.

This is achieved through a number of key activities, including:

Farm visits for schools; Classroom speaker talks by volunteer farmers; Providing free educational resource materials for schools; Outdoor education events across Scotland; Competitions and projects for schools; Training farmers and teachers in the delivery of information relating to food and farming; The Royal Highland Show education programme for visiting schools and Children’s Education Centre.

Working in partnership with teachers to enable real-life learning opportunities is critical to RHET’s success, ensuring that resources are free to schools across Scotland, and experiences gained through RHET can be harnessed by teachers in their programmes to help deliver Curriculum for Excellence for Scotland’s young people.

Fully risk-assessed farm visits combine with farmer volunteers visiting schools to discuss farming and countryside topics, as well as teacher training opportunities to ensure that both pupils and teachers are rewarded by the learning experience.

In addition, seeds and resource boxes are sent out free of charge and schools can also benefit from food journey cookery sessions.

RHET volunteers can help in many different ways, such as ‘on farm visits’ or other outside learning experiences. The charity also has specifically trained farmer speakers who will happily support projects on food, farming and the countryside within the classroom. This is useful if a class is unable to visit a farm or more usually to give the class some background to a proposed farm visit.

Volunteer farmers take with them many different props to enhance their visit, such as samples of crops or products to games and PowerPoint presentations. However, their greatest asset is their lifetime of work and experience on the farm, which brings the whole topic to life.

Farmers and other rural volunteers also find involvement immensely enjoyable and rewarding and many have supported RHET for several years. Reinforced throughout the process by RHET staff, farmers are fully trained and prepared for almost every conceivable question they might be asked!

Each year, RHET ensures that over 70,000 children will visit a working farm, or benefit from a classroom activity focused on food and farming.

At the Royal Highland Show in June each year, RHET accommodates roughly 300 school groups on the Thursday and Friday and provides educational activities for the general public on the Saturday and Sunday of the Show. All of these opportunities are provided free of charge to primary and secondary schools across Scotland and the value is evident in the faces of awe, intrigue and excitement amongst the children who participate.

It costs in the region of £400k per annum to support the delivery of RHET services every year, so fundraising is always at the forefront of activity.

With a reason to celebrate on the horizon and the fundraising need ever present, the charity is holding its first ever Gala Dinner on Friday 21 February 2020 to help raise funds to continue, build on and expand their fantastic work. Farmer and comedian, Jim Smith, will compère the evening, and a live auction, together with a silent auction will add to the excitement. There will be a range of ‘money can’t buy’ experiences on offer, including with a Michelin starred chef. The RHET team are passionate about ensuring that regular and generous supporters of the charity are rewarded with an entertaining night.

In addition, it’s important that the charity continues in its efforts to spread the word about the important impact it makes upon Scotland’s school children.

The funds raised through ticket sales and auction lots will help enable the continued delivery of food and farming education.

In addition to the superb prizes and lots on offer, the evening will treat guests to a three-course meal of delicious Scottish produce prepared by the chef team from Saltire Hospitality. There will be vegetables from East Lothian, Scotch Beef from Scotbeef, Scottish Salmon, fruit from Fife and much more.

Please follow RHET on social media for regular updates about the charity and its fundraising. Facebook – The Royal Highland Education Trust. Twitter @TheRHET. Instagram @theroyalhighlandeducationtrust #RHETGala [email protected] www.rhet.org.uk

Katrina Barclay, RHET Executive Officer