March 21st, 2010 by Sally Leave a reply »

I first noticed the existence of Eco-Schools a couple of months ago when The Blake CE Primary School in Witney was awarded a Green Flag for their efforts. Since then I’ve discovered that there are 25 schools in Witney and the surrounding area working on the Eco-Schools Programme. The Ducklington CE Primary School was awarded their Green Flag in 2008, which is proudly displayed outside the school. Another local school, that is actively working on the programme, is The Henry Box Secondary School. One of their Student Voice committees is focussed on environmental concerns including Eco-Schools.

The Eco-Schools website contains all you need to know about the scheme and some useful resources for children, it includes a look-up table section where you can find out whether your local school is registered. In a recent edition of the Oxford Journal it mentions that Oxfordshire is in the top 10 of counties registered on the Eco-Schools programme. Eco-Schools is one of five environmental education programmes run internationally by the Foundation for Environmental Education. Impressively there are 46 countries around the world that run the Eco-Schools Programme which links more than 40,000 schools and it is the biggest scheme of its kind in the UK.

It is free to join and makes tackling a school’s sustainability issues manageable and easy for all types of schools. Schools follow a 7 step process – Action team, environmental review, action plan, eco-code, involving the whole school and wider community, linking to the curriculum and finally monitoring & evaluation. This process is used to address a range of 9 environmental topics – Water, biodiversity, energy, global perspectives, healthy living, litter, school grounds, transport & waste.

Children are the force behind Eco-Schools, as it is the pupils that lead the school’s eco-committee and help carry out the audit to access the environmental performance of their school. Through consultation with the rest of the school and the wider community the pupils decide which environmental themes they want to address and how they will do it. Measuring & monitoring are an integral part of the programme, giving schools the evidence they need to celebrate their environmental successes. It sounds to me that they are learning how to be the effective ‘champions for the environment’ of the future!

The scheme empowers schools to work towards gaining one of three awards – Bronze, Silver and the prestigious Green Flag – which is indeed a real full-size flag! All Eco-Schools are expected to put environmental issues at the forefront of their schools’ culture and learning. What sets Green Flag schools apart is their commitment to a major school project (lead by the pupils) that will dramatically affect their ability to be sustainable.

The Blake School’s success was achieved through a number of actions. Providing secure bike sheds, 68% of pupils are now walking or cycling to school, recycling rain water, paper, plastic & clothes. Switching off lights, computers and water when not needed. The children keep fit through a range of before and after schools clubs, PE lessons and healthy eating lessons. The gardening club has planted a range of flowers, vegetables and greenery to improve the environment and encourage wildlife. The school also ran a project with Cottsway Housing Association and the Extended School Partnership to run a competition called “Just 1 Planet” which encouraged children to design pictures showing ways to save the environment.

My research has made me not only optimistic about a future generation of local people aware of how to live more sustainably, but that there are some important changes happening in our local schools which are contributing to some real progress towards a more Sustainable Witney.

Sally Lee



  1. Kevin says:

    WitneyBUG did a review of cycle parking last year and I was struck by the high standard of cycle parking in schools – in stark contrast to the surrounding areas.

    Take West Witney Primary: the bell goes and the kids take their bikes from the school cycle stands, nip across to the shops in Edington Square to pick up some Blackjacks and a copy of Shoot!, and you find you have to clamber over bikes laid in the shop entrance to get in – no cycle parking at all.

    The rest of the town has got a lot of catching up to do. Must seem like two different worlds to kids – all eco friendly in school, mass consumption and too dangerous to walk or cycle outside of it.

    Fear not though – growth is the answer. Or is it change? Growing change? Changing growth? Graded change makes finer growth? I don’t know, perhaps the kids can see their way through it. Let’s hope so, they certainly seem to be doing most of the work on it 😮

  2. Sally says:

    Good points Kevin, it is an interesting thought that kids are much closer to their outside environment than most adults on a daily basis. They have a lot to offer in helping us to understand the benefits of a simpler approach to living and what improvements are needed.
    At the mention of bugs I couldn’t help but put in this link:

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