Eco-Schools is a rapidly growing International Education for Sustainable Development programme run internationally by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). It currently involves around fifteen million pupils in 51,000 schools.
Sixty-seven countries now operate Eco-Schools and the number of countries is growing. Some of the countries involved are: Brazil, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark (where Eco-Schools originated), Dominican Republic, Estonia, England, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Scotland, Slovakia, Turkey, Wales and one of the latest countries to sign up, the United States of America.
In each country a single non-governmental organisation, as a member of FEE, operates the programme. In June 2008 TIDY Northern Ireland was granted membership of FEE and now operates the Eco-Schools, Young Reporters for the Environment and Blue Flag Beaches programmes for Northern Ireland. On 13 February 2014, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful became the new name for the charity TIDY Northern Ireland.
In Northern Ireland Eco-Schools currently has the full support of the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs, all of the local councils and a wide range of other government departments and NGOs. These organisations either fund the programme, support delivery of the topics (such as Waste, Energy, Biodiversity, Water etc) or both. Many organisations also support the programme by allowing staff to carry out assessments following training from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.
Northern Ireland now has 100% of schools registered on the Eco-Schools Programme.
The inaugural Eco-Schools Celebration Event in 2008 was attended by around 400 delegates including many primary and post-primary school pupils, teachers, delivery partners and funders. Five schools presented their work on Eco-Schools along with speakers representing Scotland and China. The FEE President, Jan Eriksen, and Chairman, Finn Bolding Thomsen, were also present to support Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful as new members of FEE. The second Eco-Schools Celebration Event was held on 2nd February 2012 at the Canal Court Hotel in Newry with 550 delegates attending.
2014 represented our 20th Anniversary and a Celebration Event was held on 5th March 2015 at Meadowbank Sports Arena in Magherafelt. Thousands of pupils and teachers from across Northern Ireland joined us to celebrate the last 20 years and to share ideas and good practice for the future.
Local councils regularly hold their own celebration events to recognise the achievements of Green Flag schools in their areas and representatives from Eco-Schools endeavour to attend as many of these as possible.
In November 2015 Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful were delighted and honoured to be chosen by the Foundation for Environmental Education to host the prestigious international Eco-Schools National Operators conference. Delegates from 56 countries spent the three day conference discussing the on-going development of Eco-Schools and compared experiences. As the host nation we provided the visitors with a rich and welcoming cultural experience including a reception at Stormont and a farewell gala dinner at the Ulster Museum. Guests also visited local schools; Lagan College, Castlereagh; Ulidia Integrated College, Carrickfergus; Fairview Primary School, Ballyclare; and Belmont Primary School, Belfast; to see and be inspired by their good practice.