Publication - Research publication

Evaluation of the Food Education Programme (2012-2015)

Published: 23 Mar 2016

Report evaluating how all nine projects have contributed to the programme’s overall outcomes.

119 page PDF

1.8 MB

119 page PDF

1.8 MB

Evaluation of the Food Education Programme (2012-2015)
Annex 2: Crofting Connections - Soil Association

119 page PDF

1.8 MB

Annex 2: Crofting Connections - Soil Association

Background to the project

191. This section provides background information to the project Crofting Connections. It describes how the project came to life, discusses the project's aims, outcomes and budget.

Project description

192. Crofting Connection is a project run by Soil Association Scotland in partnership with the Scottish Crofting Federation, which enables children and young people living in crofting communities throughout the Highlands and Islands to learn about crofting (past, present and future).

193. The project focuses on remote and rural schools located in the crofting counties, where population retention and stewardship of the land are closely linked with maintaining the viability of schools and the cross-generational spread of communities.

194. The project was delivered over two phases. Phase 1 (which took place from 2009 to 2012) expanded the geographical and educational scope of a precursor project, 'Planting to Plate' which ran in four schools during 2007 [10] . Phase 2 (2012-16) was further developed to deepen and extend the project, with greater focus on secondary schools, skills progression, employment and sustainability.

195. The project was supported within the FEP because food production is a primary activity of crofting and is the most significant aspect of crofting in terms of current economic, environmental and social priorities.

Project aims and outcomes

196. The overarching aim of crofting connections was to

raise awareness and understanding of crofting to ensure its sustainability and to safeguard the future of crofting.

197. In relation to food production and consumption, specific objectives were defined as follows:

  • Increase children's and young peoples' understanding of the connections between crofting, food, health and the environment
  • Support schools and communities to create local food-growing initiatives

198. A further set of more general objectives was also identified for Phase 2 which sort to:

  • Create stronger partnerships between schools and community-owned crofting estates, crofting landlords, social enterprises and local businesses.
  • Provide high quality CPD opportunities for teachers and increase their involvement with heritage, science and environmental professionals.
  • Provide older children and young people with work skills relevant to the economic priorities and opportunities of crofting communities.
  • Create clear pathways for progression into sustainable employment opportunities in crofting and related rural industries.


199. In total, Crofting Connection received £90,000 in funding from the Scottish Government. This was received over three years, contributing 28% of the total funding requested. The project received an additional £324,868 in funding from:

  • Heritage and Lottery Fund ( HLF): £84,000 over three years (equivalent to 26% of overall funding)
  • Highlands and Island Enterprise ( HIE): £105,378 over three years (32%)
  • Learning Directorate Curriculum Unit: £22,000 in Year 1 (7%)
  • Other charitable trusts: £23,490 over three years (7%)

Progress on project delivery

200. Progress on project delivery, was assessed using information gathered from various data provided, which included:

  • Individual projects' progress against targets set by the Scottish Government
  • Individual projects' achievement of project aims
  • Challenges faced
  • Feedback from the target populations on successful delivery and satisfaction
  • Identification of characteristics/features of successful projects

Attainment of Scottish Government targets

201. Crofting Connections made good progress on many of the targets. Some targets showed evidence of greater progress than others, but overall, a lot of activity was undertaken to promote, develop and further establish the project.

202. The table below shows detailed progress over time.

Table 10: Crofting Connections progress towards achieving targets

Target Progress Status
Extend the reach of the programme to 160 schools (by 2016) Total of 158 schools recruited up to March 2015: Year 1: 97 schools, Year 2: 43 schools, and Year 3: 18 schools.
Establishing flagship schools from Phase 1 schools, twinning and mentoring these with new schools 19 flagship schools so far, although no official accreditation. Phase 1 schools in all areas encouraging new schools to join. Achieved
Holding an annual Crofting Connections Conference Hold during 2013/14/but not during 2014/15 Partly achieved
Increase effectiveness of CC as a primary to secondary transition subject During Phase 2: 126 primaries, 32 secondaries reached. On-going transition work throughout the year also introduced. Achieved
Build on links with community-owned crafting estates Through Food for Thought projects. 'Aquaculture in Shetland' and 'Crofters and Fisherfolk' in Moray. Achieved
Encourage greater active engagement with crofters, landlords and volunteers Engagement with crofters and business people over time Achieved
Develop strong progression pathways between Crofting Connections and Skills for Work courses by:
  • Significantly increasing the number of secondary schools who engage with the project
  • Developing a SQA accredited course in crofting (Rural Skills)
  • Holding annual summer schools in key crofting areas
New 28 secondary schools recruited during Phase 2 so far.
New SQA accreditation launched in 2013/14
Annual summer schools held
Develop and deliver new CPD opportunities for teachers Over 300 opportunities for teachers (Year 1: 65, Year 2: 108, Year 3: 139).
Through CPD directly: 108 teachers reached over a total of 39 events
Work in partnership with other food education partners Work with several food education partners including: Seafood in Schools, Food for Life Scotland, RHET and Royal Northern Countryside Initiative. Achieved

203. Crofting Connections also conducted an evaluation of their own project led by Glasgow University [11] . One of the findings of the evaluation was around the positive impact the project coordinator and the rest of the team had on the delivery of the project. Many respondents to this evaluation highlighted the positive influence that they believed emerged through the personal drive, knowledge, ability to get things done and the networking skills of the project coordinator and the rest of the team.

Achievement of project aims

204. This section will focus solely on progress made towards achieving the food related aims of the project. Progress reported is based on the external evaluation conducted by Glasgow University [11] .

205. Objective #1: Increase children's and young peoples' understanding of the connections between crofting, food, health and the environment. The data provided showed an increase in knowledge of locally grown food, crofting and crofting communities, as well as a positive impact on young people being encouraged to eat and to produce locally or home grown food [12] .

206. Objective #2: Support schools and communities to create local food-growing initiatives. Over time the number of schools supported increased reaching a total of 158 schools by March 2015. This included 126 primary schools and 32 secondary schools.

207. From the data provided, Crofting Connections appeared to have made good progress in achieving its food related objectives.


208. Various face to face meetings with the Crofting Connections project coordinator took place during the life of the project. A set of challenges inhibiting the smooth run of the project were identified:

  • School time under pressure or [schools] feeling that they are already doing something related - it was argued that if schools were busy or felt they were covering similar topics through other avenues they resisted engaging with the project.
  • Dependence on a school champion - In some cases a head teacher would have signed up without resources on the ground to make the project happen. The success of the project was therefore heavily dependent on individuals within the schools that wanted to take it forward.
  • Costs and the geography of the Highlands and Islands including the remoteness of some of the schools - the geography of the area being covered made it difficult to engage with a group of schools simultaneously, hence affecting the spread of the project.
  • Recruiting secondary schools - new exams were introduced during the course of the project and some schools felt overwhelmed by the added pressures to include the project to the mix.
  • Response rate - the project coordinator highlighted the difficulties in getting schools to report on progress.

209. Despite the challenges described, the project achieved all of its targets and received good feedback from teachers and pupils as shown below.

Feedback from target audiences

210. From the data provided by Crofting Connections feedback from various audiences was on the whole positive. The project appeared to have struck a chord with teachers, pupils and other stakeholders alike.

211. In regards to the overall experience of Crofting Connection as a learning tool for pupils, 69% of teachers rated it as Excellent and 29% as Good [13] . Pupils also rated the project highly (50% as Excellent and 44% as Good). The majority of respondents also advocated the continuity of the project.

212. The project was seen by school staff as engaging and motivating for the pupils. One teacher illustrated this positive message by saying:
' The pupils are far more appreciative of where their food comes from after learning about crofting. They experienced what life is like working on a croft and the different stages involved before the food gets to the shop'.

213. The evaluation report from Glasgow University stated that both pupils and teachers were very enthusiastic about the project and often worked on elements of it beyond the normal school day. Interviews conducted showed the strong educational impact of the project on the participants including learners, practitioners, partners, parents and community members.

214. The report from Glasgow University showed that pupils found the project 'challenging and enjoyable' in line with the principles of CfE. They thought that what they were learning was useful and relevant and that learning felt different (in a good way).

Key features of success

215. During Phase 2, Crofting Connections consolidated its infrastructure and day to day delivery. The project reported to have increased its visibility so it was more widely known and recognised in the sector.

216. The project grew year on year reaching a total of 158 schools by March 2015.

217. Industry investment was consistent and at high levels, supporting the delivery of the project.

218. Feedback from target audiences was very positive, demonstrated by the continuous involvement with the project year on year.

219. One of the successes of Crofting Connections, as reported in their own evaluation, was that it was able to match local professionals and expertise with schools thus helping to develop Scotland's young workforce.

Progress on Programme Outcomes

220. This section focuses on the impact that the Crofting Connections has had on the wider FEP outcomes of Opportunities, Embeddedness, Investment and Learning and Behaviour Change. Each outcome is discussed in turn.


221. This section reports on progress toward the overall programme outcome: Opportunities to learn about food are provided to young people.

222. Over the reporting period for Phase 2, which includes data from 2012 to 2015, a total of over 20,600 opportunities to learn about food were provided to young people.

223. Overall, the number of schools involved in the project up until March 2015 was 158: of which 126 were primary schools and 32 were secondary schools.

224. The table overleaf provides a detailed breakdown of progress over time. However, it should be noted that the numbers reported only include the number of new schools or new opportunities created. The project assumed that those engaged with the project one year continued their work on Crofting Connections in subsequent years.

Table 11: Crofting Connections opportunities created over time

FEP: Year 1 2012-13 FEP: Year 2 2013-14 FEP: Year 3 2014-15
Total number of opportunities created 7,764 8,863 4,036
…via project work: directly through project work and indirectly through internal dissemination among schools 7,220 8,052 2,531
…via Crofting Connections events 544 811 1,505
Total number of schools engaged 97 43 18
…of which primaries 77 33 16
…of which secondaries 20 10 2

225. The remit of the project was to work with schools in Argyll & Bute, Highland, the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland. Bearing in mind the pre-established geographical scope of the project, the map below shows the coverage of the project over time.

Image 4: Crofting Connections geographical coverage


226. Being a niche project with a very specific remit, Crofting Connections helped to widen reach of the overall FEP with many harder to reach locations being covered mostly around Highlands and Islands. Other projects such as the Food for Thought Fund also covered part of this geographical area, although not to such an extent.


227. This section discusses Crofting Connections progress towards the overall programme outcome: Food education activities are embedded in the curriculum and teachers appreciate food as a learning resource and are confident to deliver food related learning.

228. The following indicators were used to measure progress towards the Embeddedness outcome:

  • Number of Food education CPD events
  • Number of teachers attending CPD events regarding food events
  • Feedback from CPD (or other events) indicating positive impacts on learning, enthusiasm and confidence
  • Resources - range, availability and feedback on use

229. Overall, Crofting Connections organised 39 CPD events reaching around 100 teachers. If other food related events are considered, the number of teacher opportunities created rose to around 300 overall. Detail of progress over time is shown in the table below.

Table 12: Crofting Connections Summary of CPD opportunities

FEP: Year 1 2012-13 FEP: Year 2 2013-14 FEP: Year 3 2014-15
Total number of teachers reached 65 108 139
…of which directly through CPD 55 17 36
Number of CPD sessions held 28 3 8

230. Quotes from teachers provided anecdotal evidence of a positive impact on teacher confidence, knowledge and/or enthusiasm to conduct food education activities.

231. The project created a varied range of resources including: recording sheets for Seed potatoes, Cereal and Legume seeds and Grain Mills and organic whole-grain cereals. 'Harvesting a Rainbow' booklet was also created in partnership with Food for life Scotland, the Food Education Partners, Scottish Natural Heritage and Highland Council schools nutritionist Dave Rex. Additionally, the book 'Soils of Crofts' produced by Crofting Connections during Year 1 received very positive feedback and appears to be still in use.

232. The project also supported the development of Gaelic with many resources being available in the language.

233. From survey data collected among school staff (n=58), the project provided ' significant scope for interdisciplinary learning that teachers readily adopted in their Crofting Connections related work'. Main subject areas included as part of the projects were: Health & Wellbeing (90%), Social Studies (92%), Language and Literacy (75%), Technologies (81%) and Science (63%).

234. The data provided demonstrates a clear contribution of Crofting Connections towards the overall Embeddedness outcome. The project not only engaged with a wide range of teachers via CPD or other major events, but also provided them with a variety of resources and general support to aid in the delivery of the project. As a result of this, there was a positive self-reported impact on confidence amongst teachers in delivering food education.


235. Another outcome of the programme was in regards to the level of investment generated from industry. The outcome was defined as: industry investment in food education is demonstrated and has increased/continues to increase, with commitment of industry to continue with engagement/partnerships.

236. Except in Year 1, the amount of in-kind investment received by Crofting Connections consistently surpassed funding received from the Scottish Government. It was conservatively estimated that since 2012 a total of over £142,700 was raised from in-kind investment [14] . This compared to a total of £90,000 of funding received from the Scottish Government over the same period.

Table 13: Crofting Connections investment

FEP: Year 1 2012-13 FEP: Year 2 2013-14 FEP: Year 3 2014-15
Scottish Government funding £30,000 £30,000 £30,000
In-kind investment from industry and other external partners £20,650 £78,550 £ 43,500

237. In-kind investment received by the project came from a variety of sources. The table below shows the amount invested by each group over time. It should be noted that the variations in amounts given are partly due to the low level of response rate from schools (averaging 20% year on year) and the differences in time periods that data is recorded. However, from the information available, it appeared that the main provider of in-kind investment were Local Authorities, agencies and non-governmental organisations ( NGOs).

Table 14: Crofting Connections in-kind investment by source

FEP: Year 1 2012-13
(data available from Dec '12 - Mar '13
FEP: Year 2 2013-14
(data available from Apr '13 - Mar '14
FEP: Year 3 2014-15
(data available from Apr '14 - Mar '15
Crofter support £3,060 £15,140 £5,140
Community support £6,113 £15,523 £4,455
Industry support £3,215 £15,620 £6,320
Local Authorities/agency/ NGO £8,260 £30,283 £27,597

Learning and Behaviour Change

238. The two last outcomes of the programme are in relation to learning and behaviour change: Knowledge and awareness regarding food has increased; and Positive change in attitudes/intention/ behaviour regarding food issues, food choices and career options.

239. The current framework of delivery appeared to be working well in terms of spreading knowledge and awareness. From feedback forms distributed and collected by Crofting Connections, pupils appeared to be excited about the project. This was backed up by the evaluation conducted by Glasgow University - from the survey data collected by the university a considerable proportion rated the project as Excellent (69% of school staff and 50% of pupils).

240. The project also seemed to have a direct and positive influence on knowledge; 93% of pupil respondents (n=72) stated an increase in knowledge of crofting (93%) and locally grown food (90%) as a result of participating in the project. Moreover, 89% of pupils stated an improvement in attitudes towards the environment and general attitudes towards learning.

241. These results were reinforced by teachers' responses (n=58); 94% of teachers said that the project had a positive impact on pupils knowledge of locally grown food. Furthermore, 86% said that the project encouraged pupils to grown their own food.

242. While it is not possible to assess any long lasting impact on behaviour change, feedback responses collected from teachers and pupils suggested an impact in the right direction. When asked (n=58), the majority of teachers stated that the project had a positive impact on young people being encouraged to eat (85%) locally or home grown food.

243. The project coordinator stated that pupils learned from the project in a tangible way in that they were set to develop practical skills but in a context that allowed them to link it to crofting past, present and future. For example, they would grow heritage tatties on one bed and know this was traditional and grow aubergines and tomatoes in a poly-tunnel and know that these were not available in the past and are only part of a modern diet.

244. The project evaluation found that the project seemed to have encouraged pupils to be more aware of sustainable issues and to eat locally grown food. Pupils' values appeared to be changing and land was perceived as an important resource as the project progressed. Pupil and teacher respondents to the survey indicated that participants had enhanced their environmental awareness and were making more sustainable choices. Survey results also showed a clear intention by pupils to grow food or bread livestock.


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