A KENDAL school community is upset after the removal of an award-winning and nationally recognised beekeeping operation from its grounds.

Heron Hill Primary School has housed The Bee Team, an independent, voluntary, and self-funded organisation that educated children about honey bees and pollination, for seven years.

Directors of the Bee Team Jacqui Cottam and Karen Harper ran an after-school club for children to learn about all aspects of beekeeping, and maintained an 'outstanding' education facility and apiary at the back of the school, available through their own voluntary work and grant funding.

However, parents and children were shocked to learn that the bees had been removed suddenly and permanently from the school at the beginning of the Easter Holidays.

A statement from The Bee Team explaining the removal said: "We would like to thank the hundreds of people who have expressed their support and care for The Bee Team over these difficult few days.

"We have had an agreement in place for seven years, detailing the shared vision and values between The Bee Team and Heron Hill, also outlining the responsibility of each party.

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"This agreement was due for its 3-year renewal in September 2022.

"Despite a preliminary meeting and repeated requests from May 2022 for this to be signed and formal permission given for us to remain on-site and working with the children, this sadly has not been forthcoming, and there has been no communication from the headteacher.

"Without this permission in place, our individual beekeeping insurances were not valid, thus leaving us vulnerable and with no choice but to remove the bees from the site at a safe time to do so.

"To say we are devastated that it has come to this is an understatement, but anyone who has visited us, worked with us, or knows us, will understand that it was not a decision taken lightly or easily.

“We realise that the removal of the bees is a significant loss to the children and school, this was never something we thought we would have to do, and because of this we are deeply upset, but we had no choice and have to respect the authority of the headteacher.”

The school, under headteacher Patricia Merritt since 2022, issued a statement refuting the claims.

It said: "We were surprised by the removal of the bees from school premises, which was done without prior notice, and disappointed by the explanation given for this action which we feel is not accurate or fair. 

"We understand how much pupils and parents valued having the bees here, and as a school, we remain committed to bees being a core part of our curriculum.

"We are already taking steps to bring bees back to our school. 

"We hope that the whole school community will support this new approach."

Chair of Friends of Heron Hill, an independent organisation that raises funds for school activities, Katherine Haley said: “Their contribution to the life of the school and past and present children has been immeasurable.

"The school grounds have been improved hugely down to their efforts and we were blown away during our annual sponsored walk last year.

"They were an integral part of school life, and even offered children the chance to earn recognised beekeeping qualifications.

"My understanding is that the Bee Team would have done everything possible to stay.

"It’s a huge, huge loss, as the chair and as a parent, we’re just very sad that it had got to this point."