Eco Schools is an international initiative designed to encourage whole-school action for the environment. It was developed in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), who are based in Portugal, and introduced into Scotland, in 1995. Schools in 41 countries are now involved in the programme and it is estimated that 4 million children and young adults are taking part. The programme is managed in Scotland by Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB).
Eco Schools is a recognised award scheme that accredits schools that make a commitment to continuously improve their environmental performance. The programme was adopted in late 2001 by the Scottish Executive Education Department as a performance measure, national priority four: values and citizenship. It is also a learning resource that raises awareness of environmental and sustainable development issues throughout activities linked to curriculum subjects and areas.
The aim of the Eco Schools programme is to make environmental awareness and action an intrinsic part of the life and ethos of the school for both pupils and for staff and to engage the wider community. The Eco Schools programme can help schools to –
Improve the school environment
Reduce litter and waste
Reduce energy and water use
Devise efficient ways of travelling to and from school
Promote healthy lifestyles
Encourage active citizenship
Build strong partnerships with a variety of community groups
Develop international and global links
The eight core topics within Eco Schools Scotland are Biodiversity, Energy, Health & Well-being, Litter, School Grounds, Transport, Waste Minimisation and Water. The programme is designed around seven core structural areas – Eco-committee, Environmental Review, Action Plan, Monitoring and Evaluating, Linking to the Curriculum, Involving the Whole School and the Wider Community and the Eco-code. Internationally, the topics used differ but the award criteria set is exactly the same.
There are three award levels in the programme - bronze, silver and Green Flag. Schools do not have to progress through the award structure i.e. a Green Flag can be gained without achieving a bronze or a silver award. Eco Schools is a process of continuous improvement so to maintain Green Flag status, schools must renew the award every two years. There are no other time constraints in the programme i.e. between a bronze and a silver award.
The Eco Schools programme does not insist on environmental perfection from the outset. It is designed so that schools can slowly build up an environmental ethos by expanding and developing environmental work as time spend on the programme progresses. For this reason, to progress through bronze or silver or on to a first Green Flag award, schools need only look at a minimum of two of the above topics. After two years, when applying for a second Green Flag, schools must show that they have sustained their work in the first two topics and have developed another two and on until all eight topics have been covered in-depth, as a school progresses to its 4th flag. There is nothing to stop a school looking at all eight topics in depth in one go though!
It is important to note that any retrospective environmental work that a school has carried out will count towards Eco Schools award progression. Also, any work carried out or planned for Active Schools, Enterprise, Healthyschools+, Safe Routes to Schools or Grounds for Awareness for example does count too.
On registration, schools receive copies of both the Scottish Eco Schools handbook and video. There are other resources that are available via e-mail. All resources are free of charge and there is no obligation to develop Eco Schools activities although there are numerous support mechanisms in place to help. A grant of £250 is available to all schools in Scotland when a first award with the programme is gained (should it be bronze, silver or Green Flag).
In April 2006, a three year sponsorship deal worth nearly £40,000, was signed between the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and the Council. This means that when a school gains a second award through the programme in Edinburgh, they can apply for a grant for £250. Forms are automatically sent from the Council to schools when confirmation of their second award is given from Keep Scotland Beautiful. This is a one-off grant and is only open to schools in the City of Edinburgh.
Over 3000 schools are registered and involved in the scheme in Scotland. To date, 538 schools have achieved Green Flag status. In Edinburgh, 208 private and local authority schools (95% of all local authority schools) are registered and fourteen schools – Bright Horizons Family Solutions (Gogarburn), Bonnington Primary, Calderglen Nursery, Carrick Knowe Primary, Dalmeny Primary, Dean Park Primary, East Craigs Primary, Ferryhill Primary, George Heriot’s, Greengables Nursery, Hermitage Park Primary, Pirniehall Primary, Prospect Bank School and St. Crispin’s School are currently at first Green Flag level.
Children’s House Nursery, Cowgate Under 5’s , Currie High, Echline Primary, Kaimes School, Kirkliston Nursery, The Royal High Primary, St. Leonard’s Nursery and Towerbank Primary have progressed onto second Green Flag level and Portobello High recently gained their third. 119 have gained bronze and 69 have gained a silver award.
The Education Section within Services for Communities can provide advice and guidance with the progression of Eco Schools work in Edinburgh. Through their local and national contacts, they can put schools in touch with organisations in the city and beyond that can help with any of the eight core topics.
Jamie Pearson, Education Officer, is the main contact in The City of Edinburgh Council for Eco Schools. He joined the council after two years of working as the Information Officer for Eco Schools Scotland. He is a lead assessor for the programme in Scotland so can give detailed advice on implementing the programme in your school and the progression of awards.
As well as providing talks and advice, the Education Team also produce a quarterly newsletter and are planning to develop an Eco Schools Edinburgh web-site in the summer break.
For more information on the programme in Edinburgh, contact Jamie on (0131) 469 5472 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
To register with Eco Schools in Scotland, contact Catriona Rae on 01786 468234, e-mail email@example.com or write to –
c/o Keep Scotland Beautiful
Edinburgh (local information) - www.edinburgh.gov.uk/ecoschools
Scotland (downloads and general information) - www.ecoschoolsscotland.org
International (information on all 41 countries in the network) - www.eco-schools.org
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