The Eco-schools programme is a European system for integrating sustainable development and environmental improvements across a wide range of activities normally undertaken by a school.
The programme must involve all the children in the school, as well as teaching and non-teaching staff, the Governing Body and parents. Ultimately, the aim is for the principles that underlie Eco-Schools to become the normal way of life for the whole school.
The Eco-Schools programme is flexible enough to allow schools to decide their own priorities and targets and so enables them to progress through the programme at a rate that they are comfortable with. There are no time limits imposed on the school by the scheme.
The range of environmental issues which the scheme covers, includes energy efficiency, water use, school grounds, litter, healthy lifestyles, transport and waste minimisation.
There are seven key elements of Eco-Schools:
- Eco-Committee: The school must establish an Eco-Committee to provide direction to the Eco-Schools programme and to ensure that the whole school is involved in the process. If the school has already established a School Council, then the Council can take on the role of the Eco-Committee.
- Environmental Review: In order to identify which environmental issue(s) need to be addressed first, an environmental review of the school’s existing environmental performance needs to be undertaken. The review must involve the whole school and evidence gathering is an important factor in deciding which issue to tackle first.
- Action Plan: Using the evidence gathered by the Environmental Review, an action plan should be developed to set out what improvements are required and a realistic and prioritised timescale for completion.
- Monitoring progress: The agreed Action Plan should also include a system for monitoring progress, so that changes can be made as the Action Plan proceeds. As far as possible, children should be given the responsibility for monitoring progress, as this will assist in keeping their interest in the scheme.
- Linking to the Curriculum: It is important to link the Eco-Schools programme into the curriculum of the school. This integration can be comprehensive with links across a wide range of subjects or it can be based on a single project associated with the Action Plan.
- Involving the whole school and wider community: Part of the Eco-Schools function is to raise awareness of your environmental activities both across the school and in the wider community. As part of the process, schools will need to identify opportunities to promote their environmental activities, whether by organising a Day of Action for the environment, or by running an exhibition at a local library. These links between the programme and the school and wider community, should be present at all stages of the process.
- The Eco-Code: The Eco-Code is the school’s mission statement for the environment. It should be linked with the Action Plan and sets out the school’s commitment to improving its environmental performance.
The Eco-Schools Awards
Schools that demonstrate a commitment to improving their environmental performance can be eligible for a prestigious Eco-Schools award.
There are 3 different awards available to Eco-Schools
The bronze level award is based on school self-assessment and winners receive a bronze certificate.
Bronze level award applicants will be expected to have set-up an environmental group within the school that has undertaken a simple environmental review and started to take agreed actions to improve the school’s environmental performance.
The environmental group should have its own notice board, and parents and the wider community should be aware of the school’s environmental work.
The silver level award is based on school self-assessment and winners receive a silver certificate.
At this level, the Eco-Committee will have wide representation, regular meetings and more formal proceedings. A more thorough environmental review is undertaken and an action plan with specific targets is prepared.
The whole school should be engaged in some aspect of Eco- School activity and the Eco-Committee is committed to reviewing the action plan and Eco-Code in consultation with the school and community.
It is not necessary to have achieved the bronze or silver level awards before applying for a Green Flag award, if the school feels that it has met the expected criteria. External assessors visit the school and compile a report based on the evidence presented and their discussions with both children and staff about their level of involvement in the scheme. They then make their decision on whether the school has been successful in achieving their Green Flag.
Schools need to renew their Green Flag every two years until they reach their fourth Green Flag. Schools wishing to renew their award must show how their commitment to environmental improvement is being maintained and progressed. After the fourth Green Flag has been achieved it becomes a permanent award.
For further information on Eco-Schools please visit the Keep Wales Tidy website.
Sustainable Development Team
Highways and Streetcare Services,
Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council
Tel: 01443 432999