RHS School Gardeners of the Year 2023 finalists

Discover the gardening superstars who have made it into the final of our competition and hear what our panel of judges had to say about them:

School Gardening Champion of the Year

Kevin Barton
Governor, Botley C of E Primary School, Botley, Hampshire - finalist

"Kevin has made incredible progress with the garden in a three-year period. It is a beautiful space. We were impressed with how very generous he was with his time during Covid, despite this being a worrying time for all. We saw this as a celebration of inter-generational connection, Kevin is an asset to the school, so valuable because he has skills and experience to share with the children. Kevin is engaging and knowledgeable – particularly in the field of biodiversity. We hope that local residents in other towns and villages might be inspired by Kevin’s experience and contact their local school to volunteer.”

Helen Cross
Parent volunteer, Netherlee Primary School & Nursery, Glasgow, Lanarkshire - finalist

“This is a brilliant example of what can be achieved in an urban setting, where it can be more challenging to garden, as there’s less access to green space. Helen clearly knows her stuff and we were particularly impressed with her efforts to help teachers gain confidence in gardening, as this will give the garden longevity and ensure it remains a fantastic learning resource for future generations. It’s admirable how much time Helen gives up for this as a parent volunteer, and there’s no doubt that she’s very articulate and has immense knowledge to pass on to the children in her care.”

Tamson Lepper
Office administrator, The Ferncumbe Primary School, Hatton, Warwickshire - finalist

“It’s clear that the children have a strong connection with Tamson. We admired how Tamson let the children decide what they want to do – her impact has longevity as she is handing that baton on in teaching the children about the environment. Her submission video was filled with heart and was emotive – you could tell the children were having a lovely time. She has created a safe space for children as relief from the curriculum pressures, which is to be admired. We also liked how she championed the underdog and gave children a place to retreat too.” 

Kalee Rothwell
Teaching assistant, Our Lady & St Joseph Catholic Primary, Lymington, Hampshire - finalist

“Kalee has made gardening as important as any other lesson and has shown the links from gardening to other things in school life, for example food in the cafeteria. She has a strong bond with the children, the key word here is trust - she was working with the children, rather than being directive. Her speech at the start of the video was really joyful and from the heart and very authentic. She showed us a wide range of activities in the video, creating a safe space for the children to ask questions. We were particularly impressed with her stewardship – writing an outdoor learning curriculum for wider area, and enterprise in raising money for school.”

Felicity Sturge
Teacher, Guildford High School, Surrey - School Gardening Champion of the Year 2023 

“What impressed us most about Felicity was her commitment, as we know it is not easy to find the time to run a gardening programme alongside teaching responsibilities. What she has achieved within a two-year period is incredible. The local outreach network Felicity has invited in is also to be commended – it's one thing to have a school garden, but it’s quite another to share that space with 13 local primary schools so that more children can experience outdoor learning. Her engagement of sixth form aged students is also of merit, as typically we see gardening has a higher take up among primary school-aged children.”  

School Gardening Team of the Year

Eco group from Baines School, Poulton-Le-Fylde, Lancashire (15 members, average age 12) - finalist

“It’s clear life lessons are also being learned here as well as gardening skills. The group has a great understanding of biodiversity e.g. looking at birds, spotting frogs. The children clearly enjoy school more because they are part of the eco club and the judging panel were impressed with their ambition and plans for future garden development.”  

Gardening club from Northampton Academy, Northamptonshire (15 members, average age 14) - finalist

“We were very impressed with their no dig approach. They have a really considered and thought through design process, using donated materials and support from a local nursery. This is the only garden that has no edibles, which is really bold as we see many schools growing food for purpose rather than pleasure. It’s a really wonderful idea to have a garden that’s created to be a beautiful place to be, rather than just being productive. It’s clear that the children have a sense of companionship through the club, which is to be admired.”

Eco team from Sandhill View Academy, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear (30 members, average age 13) - School Gardening Team of the Year 2023 (Secondary)

“There’s a really wide range of young people visiting this garden and we loved how the school uses it for alternative provision, helping children with their confidence and self-esteem. There’s such a high level of engagement and ownership from the children, it’s heart-warming to see. We were impressed with how gardening has empowered the students to take pride in their community in different ways by working with the local council. We also loved the idea of a ‘no pressure zone’ – students can be free and just appreciate the space.” 

Forest school club, The Pioneer School, Basildon, Essex (10 members, average age 13) - finalist

“It’s clear that the garden has had an incredibly positive impact on the children. Giving children the chance to get involved independently and with support, is such a meaningful experience for children with additional needs.”

Gardening club from Cantref Primary School, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire (10 members, average age 9) - finalist

“We were impressed with how the gardening team members were shepherding the other children and were full of personality. They were very engaging. We also liked how the team has worked hard to carve out spaces around the school for children to sit quietly and de-stress showing their thoughtfulness. We could also see that the team get a lot of enjoyment from the gardens and work really hard to care for these outdoor spaces.”

Gardening club from Fourfields Community Primary School, Yaxley, Cambridgeshire (25 members, average age 7) - finalist

“We were impressed by the scale of engagement in the gardening club. It really feels like the club is at the heart of the school. It was lovely to hear from different members of the Fourfields community, particularly the impact of gardening club from a parent’s perspective. Your links with the local community are fantastic and Mrs Warrener should also be commended for her dedication to the club over such a long period of time. Her commitment and enthusiasm really shine through – your children are very lucky!”


Eco group from Littlecoates Primary Academy, Grimsby, Lincolnshire (10 members, average age 10) - finalist

“Thank you for sharing your fantastic, colourful garden with us. We particularly liked the bug palace, pond and allotment. We were impressed by the club’s fantastic teamwork and by their resilience in the face of tough weather conditions for example when they built a screen to protect plants from the wind. We could see that club members get a lot of enjoyment from the gardens and from working together to care for these outdoor spaces.”

Gardening club from Quay Academy, Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire (12 members, average age 8) - finalist

“Thank you for sharing your school garden with us. We particularly liked seeing how you’ve brought your raised beds back to life and are now growing a range of fruit and veg. We were impressed by the club’s fantastic teamwork (seeing different age groups working together is great) and your focus on recycling. We can see that club members get a lot of enjoyment from being outside and from working together to care for these spaces.”

School-wide initiative at Sir Alexander Fleming Primary School, Telford, Shropshire (250 members, average age 8) - School Gardening Team of the Year 2023 (Primary)

“You can clearly see the kids are having fun, they have such a diverse space with the polytunnel, no-dig wildlife meadow, future forest, bog garden, raised beds and wild corners. The children clearly enjoyed making the film and have an excellent understanding of the environment and what they are doing in the garden – a great sense of purpose. The teacher is very engaged and enthused and the children are too. Many congratulations to everyone at Sir Alexander Fleming Primary School. The scale of involvement is very impressive as is the sheer enthusiasm.”

Gardening club from Thorpe Acre Infant School, Loughborough, Leicestershire (40 members, average age 6) - finalist

“We were impressed by the scale of involvement in the club – 40 out of 120 children involved is fantastic. It was great to hear that the club is working with the local junior school to help them develop their school garden so that school gardening can continue for your children when they move up. We particularly liked your bottle greenhouse and your orchard will be amazing. It was also great seeing the learning continue in the classroom as well as outside. It is really evident that your children get a lot of joy from the club. Their enthusiasm is contagious.”


Meet our overall winners: