GREEN-fingered pupils from a Darwen primary school have been shortlisted for a coveted national award.

Youngsters at Ashleigh Primary in Ross Street have reached the final four of the RHS School Gardening Team of the Year competition.

Teaching assistant Jennifer Squelch has led the school’s gardening club as it developed and maintained the gardening areas, with all children in school given the opportunity to work in them.

Headteacher Ian Matthews said: “We have a group of extremely dedicated staff and children, led by Mrs Squelch, who develop and maintain our school’s beautiful garden areas.

“All children throughout the school have the opportunity on a regular basis to work in the gardens, with produce being used in the school’s kitchen and any excess going to local businesses for use in their restaurants.

“The children also work with other community groups, with pupils regularly maintaining local war graves with the Friends of Darwen Cemetery.

“The RHS has recognised these achievements, placing Ashleigh as one of the top four finalists in the country.”

The school now has to produce a 10-minute video showing the work it does in the gardens, which the judges will use to decide the winner of the RHS Gardening Team of the Year 2014.

They have already been awarded an engraved trowel, gardening gloves for each team member and £250 in National Garden gift vouchers.

And if the school wins the competition, it will receive a 3m by 6m greenhouse worth £1,855 and an extra £250 in gift vouchers, while a celebrity gardener will also spend a day at the winning school.

Mr Matthews said: “Well done to Mrs Squelch and her team and we will all keep fingers crossed for the finals.”

The gardening team is also selling strawberry plants for 50p each which the children have grown from seed. Whitehall town councillor John East said:

“We are delighted Ashleigh has got to the final of this award.

“Special congratulations to Mrs Squelch for the outstanding work she has done and we look forward to the school’s entry in the Whitehall in Bloom competition which has recently launched.”