Education and Eco-Schools
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The education sector has an important role to play in addressing the issue of climate change. An increase in Eco Schools and Eco-education would require us to build on and develop our education system.
Keep Britain Tidy funds the Eco Schools England project. Eco-Schools is an international award programme that guides schools on their sustainable journey, providing a simple framework to help make sustainability an integral part of school life. The process is easy and all the resources are provided and Government policy and support would increase the prevalence of schools willing to take part. Eco-Schools can help enhance the curriculum and unite the whole school behind something important.
70% of English schools have joined the Eco-Schools programme but there is no data for monitoring to what extent the Sustainable education has been rolled out across the schools so far. Joining the programme is completely free and makes tackling sustainable issues manageable and easy for any school. Registered schools receive a monthly e-newsletter with details of Eco-Schools training courses and conferences. Schools can work towards three awards; Bronze, Silver and Green Flag, keeping momentum going.
The Education team at Keep Britain Tidy produced an Eco Schools Strategy Forum in 2014 with a long term aim of the development of an Eco Schools strategy. They say that ‘a five year, 2015 – 2020, strategy for Eco-Schools and our wider education work is currently a work in progress.’ You can read more about Keep Britain Tidy and their other programmes here.
Eco Schools have many benefits to all the different stakeholders involved in the process:
The Success of Eco Schools Programmes so far:
Dearne Valley Eco Schools Project: This scheme is funded by the Regional Improvement & Efficiency Program (RIEP) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It is the largest Eco Schools project in the country and has been extremely popular in the Dearne Valley area. Almost all of the primary and secondary schools in the Dearne Valley have signed up (46 in total) to take part. The project includes work in the classroom as well as visiting the local Marr wind farm, designed to give pupils a first-hand look at how a renewable energy scheme operates.
The Eco Schools project has been a huge success in gaining a positive response from the students, with the added positive of taking their sustainability knowledge home to their families. Read our interview with Oliver Coppard, Labour Candidate for Sheffield Hallam, on Eco-Schools and Eco-Housing.
Progress to be made:
In late September 2016, Theresa May gave her seal of approval to an Eco School, St Mary’s RC Primary School in Maidenhead; the school has achieved a decade of environmental action that has seen them reduce their gas bill by 40%, reduce their waste by a third and build a greenhouse from 2,000 plastic bottles. However, Theresa May talked about this Eco School as making a difference in a ‘small way’ as individuals and no further national policy around education has been discussed. Currently, the Government has no framework to support Eco Schools and being an Eco-School has no affect on the rated standard of the school.
Asking your MP to support climate policy
Earlier in 2016 Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education said: ‘Over the past six years we have made great strides forward, with more than 1.4 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010.’ You could discuss with your MP what constitutes a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ school and how we can move toward Eco Schools being part of the criteria for an ‘outstanding’ school.