As my term as Chair of Governors at Edwalton Primary School is about to come to an end (I will still be a Governor) it set me thinking about what the school has achieved over the years, particularly in relation to being an ‘eco’ school, (it is just re-applying for its green flag status for the third time).
In the UK today, more than 67 per cent of schools have now signed up to the Eco-Schools Programme, Edwalton was an early adopter.
The programme guides schools onto a sustainable journey, it helps provide a framework to embed environmentally aware principles into the very heart of modern school life. Keep Britain Tidy, which administers the programme, hopes that the remaining 33 per cent of schools will follow shortly. There are 46 countries around the world already signed up, linking more than 40,000 schools to share with one another their initiatives and successes.
The programme was set in motion after the 1994 Rio Earth Summit, but took hold four years ago, as climate change increasingly became a staple of news bulletins. Eco-Schools essentially encourage pupils to account for energy and water waste in daily life, to collect litter, and grow their own food. It rewards all efforts too, and achievements are marked by bronze, silver and green flags.
This doesn’t merely mean through solar panels and wind turbines, but also by simply observing good behaviour. The Switch Off Campaign, has proved particularly effective, largely because it is so easily implemented. Pupils now ensure that before they leave their desks and rooms all the computers are off, as are the lights.
It is good that they do – the UK Education Sector currently produces somewhere in the region of 10.8m tonnes of carbon a year, but through good behaviour alone the initiative is now helping to save more than 200,000 tonnes. The aim is that one day all schools become 100 per cent carbon neutral. It is also hoped that, by targeting children so early on, they will take these messages forward in life. Certainly the experience at Edwalton is very positive, the children are all fully signed up to the idea of being green in all possible ways at school – and home.
Their effect at home is not to be underestimated, a 2008 poll of 1,500 parents showed that 24 % cited their children as a key green motivator. Only 2 % said they took their cue from politicians.
Kids today have a far more global view than we ever did. When I was growing up I remember my father constantly reminding me to switch off the lights. Now it’s my children who tell me to turn off the lights. They know all about wasted energy, and how to avoid it. The environment has become a big concern for them – as it should.
This is education at its best.