Pupils of a Dorset school have been looking after sunflowers as a reminder of all that they enjoy at school.

Almost 200 pupils of Bovington Academy went home on their last day with a sunflower to care for, after parent Louise Regan bought seeds and asked the local community to donate compost and unwanted flower pots.

The aim of the sweet gesture is to encourage children to post their pictures online and continue school friendships remotely following the Government’s decision to close education establishments as the country battles coronavirus.

Ms Regan, who is training to become a Learning Support Assistant at Bovington Academy, said: "For me growing things is great for mental health and wellbeing. Giving children a sense of ownership, having a sense of responsibility also gives them a sense of purpose.

"And if everyone posts their pictures on Facebook then they will be able to maintain contact and there will be a prize for the tallest sunflower.

"A lot of the parents are not keen gardeners but sunflowers are low maintenance and easy for children to look after."

In addition to spending £9 on 180 Giant African Sunflower seeds, Ms Regan posted on a community page for compost and was given £10 to buy three medium bags by a resident. Almost 200 unwanted plant pots were donated by residents and teachers.

Victoria Maslin, Co-acting Principal at Bovington Academy, said: "Approximately 160 children from Reception to Year 6 had the opportunity to plant and take home a sunflower.

"Louise thought it would be a nice if every child was able to take home their very own sunflower on their last day before the school was shut as a reminder of all that they enjoy at school.

"Many of the parents have told us how touched they were that this was organised for the children on their final day in school.

"Everyone is looking forward to seeing the sunflowers grow over the coming weeks and months ahead - bringing happiness and beauty to each and every home. We hope that this small gesture will create a sense of hope to all our families at this difficult time."