Eco-gardens will be created at eight schools across the St Ralph Sherwin Catholic Multi Academy Trust after they secured funding from East Midlands Airport.

Blessed Robert Sutton, in Burton, St Thomas’, in Ilkeston, and St Edward’s, in Swadlincote, will share £34,000 from the airport’s eco-gardens project.

English Martyrs’, in Long Eaton, Holy Rosary, in Burton, St George’s, St Joseph’s and St John Fisher, all in Derby, will work with a wildlife expert on their garden plans before the amount of funding they will receive is confirmed in the Autumn.

The eight schools were among 26 which applied for funding from EMA’s eco-garden project.

All schools were asked to submit designs for gardens or green spaces that substantially boost biodiversity and lead to improved wellbeing.

The proposals were evaluated by a panel of experts which included representatives from the airport’s corporate social responsibility team, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the parks, green spaces and environmental management team at South Derbyshire District Council.

The submissions were assessed against several criteria. The designs needed to demonstrate how the gardens would make existing space environmentally richer and more diverse, improve biodiversity, stimulate outdoor learning, and have wellbeing benefits.

A wide range of designs were submitted with proposals ranging from creating wetlands,  living classrooms, sensory gardens, vegetable patches and wheelchair accessible green spaces.

Such was the standard of entries that the judges decided to award funding to all schools that participated. Some will be awarded the exact amount of funding that they asked for while others will be given support to refine their designs to maximise biodiversity and wildlife benefits. The cost of these will then be re-evaluated and schools will be awarded the appropriate funding to deliver these schemes.

Jo Pettifer, Sustainability Project Co-ordinator for the St Ralph Sherwin CMAT, worked with schools on their garden proposals.

She said: “I am delighted that 8 of our schools have been successful in securing funds. The design ideas include ‘Flight path’ inspired by the ducks which regularly land on St Thomas’ school roof, “The Lost Gardens of Holy Rosary” which is a magical secret garden idea and The Sutton Way Eco Garden: a garden inspired by Blessed Robert Sutton’s Mission Statement – Love, Respect, Hope, Kindness, Resilience – it shows how those values will help us make a more sustainable world. The pupils have worked so hard, carrying out wildlife audits, planning their designs, discussing them with their teachers and filming presentations for the competition. I am so grateful that East Midlands Airport are rewarding all that hard work, what a triumph.”