Norfolk teacher wins national gardening champion award

RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year, Matt Willer of Reepham High School and College, Reepham.

RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year, Matt Willer of Reepham High School and College, Reepham. Photography by Jason Bye - Credit: RHS/Jason Bye

A high school teacher from Norfolk has been named the Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) Gardening Champion of the Year.

Green-fingered Matt Willer, a history teacher from Reepham High School and College, won the prestigious title after launching 'The Allotment Project' on an abandoned corner of the school playing field.

Mr Willer encouraged more than 100 young people from the school to get involved in the scheme and they now grow organic produce for the school kitchen.

The RHS were impressed with his back to basics approach to maintenance – with grass cutting done by sickle and scythe and containers made from old tyres and sinks.

The RHS competition was designed to showcase the impact that gardening can have on children's learning, development and wellbeing.

Mr Willer said: 'I am deeply humbled by this national award as it was the young people, staff and parents who surreptitiously nominated me for it. I just hope this will act as a megaphone to encourage teachers in other schools in Norfolk to create and develop am allotment for their young people, as only good things can come from doing so'.

Mr Willer was chosen from more than 200 entrants.

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Frances Tophill, BBC Gardeners' World presenter and judge said: 'This year's winners prove the appeal of gardening for teens - whether it's to boost wellbeing, learn valuable life skills or open up career opportunities such as paving the way for tomorrow's conservationists.

'The determination, vision and hard work they've shown is nothing short of miraculous.'

Alana Cama, RHS Skills Development Manager said: 'It's so encouraging to see secondary schools winning this year as often the pressure of exams and grades means fewer students and teachers are able to spend time in the garden.

'It just shows that with a little perseverance, people like Matt, a full time teacher, teaching GCSE and A Level History, can reap the benefits of the outdoors.'

Mr Miller has been invited to an awards ceremony at RHS Garden Wisley on Saturday.

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