Inspiring the next generation of tree-planters

20 April 2020 7 minute read

St Paul's Way Primary

Over the four years of the Trees for Schools programme, we've helped 306 London primary schools plant over 35,000 trees to make their school surroundings greener and healthier!

Trees for Cities have been the London delivery partner for the Woodland Trust’s Trees for Schools programme, funded by Defra, since its inception in 2016. Over the four years of the programme Trees for Cities have helped sign up London primary schools for over 35,000 free trees. We have ensured that 306 London primary schools have been able to gain the extra support they’ve needed in their tree planting activities from site surveys, to alternative planting sites when planting wasn’t possible on their school grounds, to planting workshops and tree species selection advice.

Schools could request packs of 15, 30, 105 or 420 trees containing a mix of native species sourced and grown in the UK, including oak, rowan, wild cherry, crab apple, hawthorn, elder and silver birch. Across London, schools have been taking on the challenge to create new woodlands and wildlife hedges with their trees on school grounds, in community gardens and local parks. 

The schools benefit from the trees in a number of ways, from the trees’ natural ability to absorb pollutant gases and filter airborne particulates, to producing havens for wildlife and shade for staying cool on hot days, an educational resource and the possibility to spark a child’s interest and curiosity in the natural world. 

Henry Fawcett Primary in South London

In the final year of the programme 2019-2020 Trees for Cities have signed up 129 schools, including Bowes Primary in Enfield. Bowes Primary is close to the heavily polluted North Circular and one of their pupils Ana Haliday wrote to us at Trees for Cities to see if we could help her school go greener. As a newly-elected eco councillor, she was keen to make her school a greener and more eco-friendly place.

Ana and fellow pupils at the school have planted 15 new saplings at Bowes primary school, leaving a legacy for the future pupils. Ana is in Year 6 so won’t be returning, but has taken the first steps to make green improvements at her school. 

We had a chat with Ana to see where her passion for the environment comes from and why she wants more schools to get involved in tree planting.


Hi Ana! What made you get in touch with us and where did your engagement come from?

- I wanted our school to have more trees in our playground. We had four trees, then the playground changed over the holiday and one disappeared. I thought that we needed more to help the environment around the area. I did some research and found Trees for Cities. I looked at your website and found a school that you had been to and transformed and I wanted that to happen to mine!

Do you think it's important to make schools greener and more eco-friendly? 

- Yes! Making schools greener and more eco-friendly will help people think about their impact on the planet. It can show that they can do it and that it doesn’t take too much effort.

What do you think the new trees will mean for your school?

- I think that the new trees will help the future of our school become more environmentally friendly and help clean the air. 

Would you recommend tree planting to other schools?

I would recommend for other schools to plant trees because it will help our planet and make the children, parents and teachers more aware about the environment. Everyone can see the trees grow and remember that they will be there forever.

Ana Haliday, Bowes primary pupil

Greta Thunberg has inspired a lot of young people to engage with environmental issues. Do you think adults could learn from young people?

- I think that adults could learn from younger people because we are the future and we could make a change bigger than what they could ever do!

Thank you Ana!

Barclay Primary School

Success stories

One of our larger tree pack orders for London came from another Enfield school; Enfield County Primary School who managed to plant 420 trees on their school field! In November 2019 Trees for Cities ran planting workshops with Year 5 pupils there.

Many London schools simply don't have the space to plant any trees on the school grounds either because there are already many mature trees or other vegetation or because the space was totally concrete. Two schools we engaged with solved this problem by breaking up the concrete on their school grounds! 

Ravenstone Primary in Balham had already started their 'Wild Space' project when they planted their Woodland Trust trees around the border of their new green space (which used to be completely concrete) and now is turned into a small green oasis, complete with a tree house.

Our other concrete breaking school, Torridon Junior School in Lewisham submitted  a successful funding bid to the Greater London Authority's Greener City Fund with the support of Trees for Cities; to break up the concrete around the edge of the staff car park in order to plant more trees. In November 2019 they planted 30 trees and the GLA grant will mean they have suitable space to plant another 210 Woodland Trust trees which is going ahead in November 2020.

Schools also got involved in some of our long term Trees for Cities sites around the capital. Jolly's Green is a Trees for Cities site that we've worked on for over 20 years. The woodland, which is now quite established, was designed to cut down noise and traffic pollution from the Blackwall Tunnel Approach on the other side. School children from Mayflower Primary school in Tower Hamlets planted their 30 free Woodland Trust whips in January 2020 at Jolly's Green with Trees for Cities, to form a new hedgerow alongside the fence inside the park.  The children will be able to come back and visit the hedgerow and watch it over the changing seasons.

Woolmore Primary School in Tower Hamlets became our final school to plant with Trees for Cities on the Trees for Schools programme this season. They planted 15 trees; Cllr Rachel Blake from Tower Hamlets Council said “with schools closed this week I am remembering the beautiful planting and learning that Woolmore had been doing with Trees for Cities and wanted to say a big thank you to all the kids, teachers and tree planters!”

Woolmore Primary School in Tower Hamlets

Thanks to all of our Trees for Schools tree planters from 2016-2020! Together we have managed to plant over 35,000 trees, quite an achievement.

On behalf of everyone at Trees for Cities, the London primary school children involved in this programme and their teachers, thank you to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for your generous support of this project and to the Woodland Trust for managing the nationwide Trees for Schools programme and working with us in partnership for the London area.

Check out our other work in schools here, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to partner up with us! 

If you’ve enjoyed reading about our work in schools and would like to help us improve lives and creating a greener, healthier, happier cities, you can do so by donating below!

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