It has been a record breaking year for Eco-Schools in Northern Ireland, with 295 now flying the prestigious Green Flag representing over 25% of all schools. Eco-Schools is an international programme with 67 countries around the world involving over 18,000,000 pupils.
This year marked a landmark moment when Downpatrick Nursery School, the first school in the world to be awarded an Eco-Schools Green Flag in 1994, became the first school in NI to be awarded its 10th Green Flag, making it a world leader in sustainable education. Three generations of the Rutledge family, who have been involved in the Eco work at the school from the start, celebrated the moment. Catherine Rutledge parent to Alan, pupil at the time of the first flag, has worked at the school for a further 8 flags and Eboni, Alan’s daughter, is a current pupil.
Former Principal of Downpatrick Nursery School, Kelsie Erskine commented at the 10th Green Flag celebrations: “I was excited when the information about the first ever Eco-Schools Award Scheme arrived in the Nursery School in 1994. I was always very interested in environmental issues and encouraged the children to take an interest in wildlife and nature. I had no idea all those years ago that we were the first school in the world to achieve this award! I am so delighted that the Nursery School has not only maintained this eco-friendly ethos but strengthened and developed it to win their 10th Eco-School Award after 24 years”
Lorna Burns, current Principal at the school commented: “I have felt honoured to take up the mantle of the Eco-Schools programme at Downpatrick Nursery School. It has been very important to keep up the high standards of my predecessors. The "Green" theme has become an integral part of our school life and the children are actively encouraged to promote environmental ideas and action plans to benefit not only the school but also the wider community. We are pleased to see that our parents and the local community all enjoy celebrating our success as an Eco-School and they actively embrace and support all the topics and initiatives that we promote. We aim to continue to find new ways of collaborating with other local schools of all ages in combined Eco-Schools projects".
The Green Flag is the respected eco-label for environmental education and performance, recognising Eco-Schools successful in protecting the environment and creating a sustainable future.
Eco-Schools is pupil led with young people involved in the Eco-Committee and its decision making, as well as the practical action that follows. Such amazing success is made possible with the support of teachers and the wider school community who share the ambition of parents and grand-parents in wanting every child to reach their full potential.
Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, which runs Eco-Schools in Northern Ireland, added “By capturing the hearts and minds of pupils and teachers, Eco-Schools is making a real, tangible and positive impact on our environment. The programme is engaging our young people, who will be the next generation of business and political leaders, in developing eco-friendly behaviours that also help our economy.”