Uckfield Community Technology College is one of nine schools across East Sussex selected to receive an unusual early Christmas present this year – an elm tree.
More trees are available if other schools are interested in receiving them.
The County Council has been working with the Conservation Foundation’s Great British Elm Experiment to provide free elms to schools.
Elms are under threat from Dutch elm disease, which has killed millions of elm trees in the UK since its arrival in 1971.
The only way to reduce the spread of the disease is to fell and burn those trees that have been infected.
The council has either felled and burnt, or removed infected limbs from, more than 900 diseased trees this year within the control zone, in order to protect those that are still healthy.
It is believed that there are still around 50,000 mature elms within this area.
By providing schools with a sapling elm the council hopes to encourage the spread of the tree in the county and find elms that are resistant to the disease.
The saplings are grown from cuttings taken from mature trees around the country that have seemingly escaped the ravages of Dutch elm disease. It is believed that this is due to some form of resistance to the disease.
The Great British Elm Experiment is asking schools and community groups to plant these trees and monitor their growth in the hope that when they reach maturity it will be possible to assess whether they are resistant or not.
Most of the saplings are between 35 cm and 90 cm but Elms can grow up to 20-30m. It is only after about 10-15 years when the trees will be 15-20m that the trees are likely to be affected by Dutch elm disease.
East Sussex now contains the only population of mature English elms in the world, helped by a Dutch elm disease control area established in 1973 to protect them.
The area extends from Eastbourne to Brighton, running from the Downs to the sea.
Schools taking part in the project include:
Uckfield Community Technology College – Eco Club
Newick CE Primary School
St Mary’s, Maynards Green
Broad Oak Community Primary School
Uplands Community College
Seaford Primary School
Priory School, Lewes
Castledown Primary School, Hastings
Catsfield CE Primary School