A former Moulsecoomb Primary School pupil has made links with her old school by setting up a gardening project at the school along with her Year 12 friends.
Martha Sharp, 17, went to the Brighton school before she received a bursary to attend Christ’s Hospital in Horsham.
She was the first pupil from the Moulsecoomb school to go to Christ’s Hospital, but three others have followed in her footsteps, all with bursary places.
Six years on, she wanted to give something back. Now she and other pupils from Christ’s Hospital visit Moulsecoomb fortnightly to help the children with a gardening project.
Last week, the sixth formers helped Year 3s and 4s plant tomato plants they had grown from seedlings in the school’s ‘world garden’.
Other days they help with weeding or harvesting.
Two Year 3 pupils said the gardening project helped them in ‘cooperating with others and making friends’.
Martha said: “I went here when I was younger and got into Christ’s Hospital. It has been so important to me.
“I came here in the beginning of Year 5. I only had a couple of years here but it was the place I stayed the longest. The thing that stuck with me was the way they take notice of kids.”
Martha said she never would have got the bursary to attend Christ’s Hospital without the help of Moulsecoomb Primary.
“I was talking about boarding school in a Harry Potter way,” she said. “They make things happen here.
“I am on a full bursary and I was the first kid from Moulsecoomb to come to Christ’s Hospital.”
She said attending the boarding school had changed her life: “Boarding school, that environment for me, without the stability I do not think I would have academically flourished.”
Martha was keen to retain links with her old school, and she and a group of her fellow pupils started to help Moulsecoomb with a gardening project in January this year.
Of the primary school pupils she said: “They just want to be out and moving. Something that gets them feeling comfortable.”
She said they talk to the younger pupils about their futures, and could see the potential for some to gain a bursary at Christ’s Hospital.
“I am not comfortable completely with the independent school system, but I am comfortable with Christ’s Hospital,” she said. “We take pupils from all kinds of backgrounds. That is what Christ’s Hospital is about.”
The Horsham school has taken four Moulsecoomb children in recent years, with more expected to follow – 75 per cent of pupils at Christ’s Hospital receive a free place or some level of bursary to attend.
Another Christ’s Hospital pupil Alice Roberts, 17, said: “It is through Martha that I got involved and I’m really thankful to her for bringing this to the school. I feel like it is a really good opportunity to connect with these children. I have never seen a school do this through gardening. It allows the children to learn in a fun environment for them. It feels like they are getting a lot out of it.”
Fellow student Oli Darmon, 17, said: “I think they have found a sense of caring for the environment, it’s really important for youth today. There’s a sense of community which is really important.”
Warren Carter, a governor at Moulsecoomb school, said: “This is all about outdoor learning. Giving children an opportunity to feel good about themselves.
“Martha went to the school. For Martha to instigate this, it benefits the students at Christ’s Hospital. And it gives children opportunities they may not otherwise get.”
Christy Hawkins, a teacher at Christ’s Hospital, said: “It is a great opportunity. Everyone is planting and harvesting.
“They are always really excited to see the older kids. They want to hang out with them. They are only a few years out of this environment themselves. It is a lift for them to go back to this calmer more playful environment.”
Adam Sutton, headteacher at Moulsecoomb Primary School, said: “We have had four children attend Christ’s Hospital in recent years. These children were all high achievers academically and had confidence in their abilities.
“Something else that fills me with pride is the willingness of the former pupils to return to visit us at Moulsecoomb and to pitch in helping the younger children with their learning even when they should be on their school holidays.”