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Posted on Fri 05 Apr 2019

Eco-Schools Launch Marine Topic at Teachers Conference

Eco-Schools celebrated its 25th anniversary this year with the launch of a new Marine topic which shines a spotlight on the issue of plastic in our oceans. Teachers attending the Eco-Schools conference last week in W5 were inspired to take action to protect the environment from plastic after hearing moving speeches from Lizzie Daly, wildlife biologist and presenter, and Geoff Brighty, from Plastic Oceans UK. The conference was supported by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Over 180 teachers, pupils and guests learnt about the increasing concerns of plastic pollution and how the choices we all make daily can lead to micro-plastics from home, single-use plastics and litter from the land ending up in the sea where it takes centuries to breakdown, choking and poisoning wildlife in the meantime. Over 80% of litter washed up on NI shores is plastic and the equivalent of a dump truck of plastic enters our oceans every minute globally.

However it wasn’t all grim news, the speakers including young people from Eco-Schools (St Killian’s College, Carnlough, and Ashbourne Community School, Meath) had solutions to the problems too. Education and action are key to stopping this deadly flow – refuse single-use plastics, choose and dispose of toiletries carefully, carry your own reusable water bottle/cup, clean up beaches and local areas of litter, lobby your local politicians and business leaders to change policy and product design.

Ulidia Integrated College were there on the day to capture the events as part of their Young Reporters for the Environment campaign.

The conference was also an opportunity to recognise excellence in Eco-Schools with Forge Integrated Primary School, Belfast; Kilronan School, Magherafelt; McClintock Primary School, Omagh; St Ita’s Primary School, Castlereagh and Waringstown Primary School, Craigavon, all collecting Ambassador Eco-Schools awards on the day.
Outstanding teachers nominated by their pupils also received Eco-Teacher of the Year awards with Karen McKee from St Oliver Plunkett’s Primary School, Loughgall and Rachel Wilson from Down High School, Downpatrick, collecting the primary and post-primary titles respectively.

We’d also like to say a big thank you to our workshop providers: Lizzie Daly, Plastic Oceans UK, RSPB, Mill Strand Integrated Primary School, Ulster Wildlife, and Into Film.

Exhibitors on the day were Northern Ireland Assembly, British Council, Sustrans, CCEA, Ards and North Down Borough Council, Woodland Trust, Habitat for Humanity NI, Garden Escapes NI, SERC and Ambassador Eco-Schools.

Posted on Mon 21 Jan 2019

Antrim and Newtownabbey pupils are Wheelie serious about waste

Schools in Antrim and Newtownabbey are tackling the important topic of recycling and food waste with the launch of the exciting Wheelie Big Challenge, run by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Eco-Schools and supported by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council. With alarming figures like 7 million tonnes of food being thrown away from UK homes every year, pupils are investigating what can be done in school and at home to reduce waste.

Straid Primary School is one of the schools in the area who are embarking on a new recycling and food composting project within the school as part of the Wheelie Big Challenge. Helen Duff, Eco-Coordinator in Straid Primary School said: “We are very excited to be taking part in the Wheelie Big Challenge. As part of a rural community we see every day how important it is to look after our environmental. Being able to make changes to our recycling and food waste within the school shows children that no matter how young or small, we can all make a difference when we work together.”

Ruth Van Ry, Environmental Education Manager, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said: “We are delighted to roll out this action based, fun project and competition for all schools in Antrim and Newtownabbey to think about how they could improve the environment by reducing waste and recycling more. We are looking forward to seeing all the interesting ideas from schools. We invite all school pupils in Antrim and Newtownabbey to put their eco-thinking caps on and get involved.”

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Paul Michael said: “We are pleased to be working with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful on this competition for the first time. As a council we’re working hard to improve recycling and composting rates and this competition gives schools the opportunity to win great prizes while helping to protect the environment and reduce waste disposal costs. We hope that this competition spurs on pupils and families to think about what they waste at home and in school and to do something positive about it. ”

The Wheelie Big Challenge is open now to all schools in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and will run until May. You can register your interest in the competition and receive resources and information by emailing cathy.gorman@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org or by calling 02890 736920.

The Eco-Schools Programme is the world’s largest environmental education programme which aims to make environmental awareness and action an intrinsic part of school life. Eco-Schools work through a simple seven step process to implement behavioural change and study a range of topics, such as waste, litter and energy. By participating in projects such as the Wheelie Big Challenge schools throughout Antrim and Newtownabbey will be able to reduce their environmental impact and become more sustainable as they work towards their prestigious, internationally recognised Eco-Schools Green Flag award.

Posted on Thu 06 Dec 2018

NI pupils celebrate 10 years of Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge

Local schools choose active travel to cut car congestion

Translink and Eco-Schools – the international environmental education programme – are celebrating 10 years of joining forces to deliver a school travel challenge across Northern Ireland.

The Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge promotes walking, cycling, bus and train travel for the school run instead of car use. Since its launch, over 105,000 sustainable journeys have been made by pupils choosing more active travel modes in an effort to cut car congestion at the school gates, protect the environment and boost their health and wellbeing.

The initiative supports the draft Programme for Government by encouraging an increase in public transport use and active travel. It incorporates curriculum-linked classroom resources and encourages schools to develop sustainable travel plans for at least 2 weeks as a way to achieve the prestigious Eco-Schools Green Flag Award.

Translink Health & Safety Manager John Thompson said: “The Challenge is a smart move to get more young people thinking about the importance of ‘active travel’:

“This partnership supports Translink’s ‘Go Eco’ corporate responsibility goals and it’s great to reach this major decade milestone. We’ve seen significant growth in pupil participation and around 10,500 pupils have now completed the challenge, demonstrating their commitment to reducing car congestion in their area.

“Over the years, pupils have been very creative in how they highlight the importance of sustainable transport, holding car-free days, fancy dress journeys, designing posters and even performing catchy public transport raps!

“We’re now encouraging schools to take part in the challenge during this milestone year. Simply visit www.translink.co.uk/ecoschools/ to download our Key Stage 1 – 3 classroom resources and be in with a chance of winning fantastic prizes!” said John.

Ruth Van Ry, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: “We really enjoy working on this great project with Translink and are seeing the rewards as a record number of pupils took part last year and the percentage of sustainable journeys undertaken has grown from 12% in the early years to nearly 60% last year. We are encouraging all schools to get on board for this special 10th year anniversary, have some fun and improve their health and environment.”

For further information visit your Eco-Schools School Zone Project page. Deadline for completed Translink Eco-Schools Travel Challenge entries is Tuesday 21st May 2019. 

Posted on Tue 18 Sep 2018

The Litter Less Campaign - Seven Years of Positive Change

The latest phase of the campaign reached 357,516 students from 546 schools across 15 countries and marks changes in students’ perceptions, behaviour about litter

In September 2018, the Litter Less Campaign will enter its eighth year and since its inception has engaged over 2 million students around the world.

The Litter Less Campaign is a joint initiative between the Wrigley Company Foundation and Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) that aims to educate young people about the issues surrounding litter, to encourage them to make positive waste disposal choices, and to inspire them to engage their communities in anti-litter activities.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful are seeking to engage 30 primary schools and 20 post primary schools through the Wrigley Litter Less Eco-Schools and Young Reporters for the Environment campaigns in 2018/19.

There is seed funding available to kick start your own litter or waste themed campaign and media workshops for post primary schools involved in YRE.
The main objectives of the Litter Less Campaign are to:
  • Raise awareness of how litter and waste affect the local environment
  • Improve the way students and schools approach waste management
  • Give young people the knowledge and practical skills to prevent and manage litter
  • Provide students with a platform to report on litter issues in their communities
  • Encourage collaboration and the sharing of best practices between schools
  • Involve the local community to actively address the issue of litter
An overall evaluation of the campaign’s impact indicates students’ awareness, knowledge and behaviour has grown by over 10%. This is a very significant educational improvement considering the Litter Less Campaign is a relatively condensed and inexpensive project for schools to implement. During the past year of the campaign, we documented positive change in Eco-Schools students’ awareness of litter and waste issues in 30% of the population, when compared with control students. Additionally, positive change in YRE students’ knowledge about waste production, fate and recycling improved by 21% when compared with control students.

If you are interested in taking part in this year’s Wrigley Litter Less campaign please contact Francesca.dipalo@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org

Posted on Tue 18 Sep 2018

Green Flag applications

Green Flag news and updates

The last couple of years have seen some changes to the Green Flag application process in order to streamline the process both for schools and us. All applications for the Green Flag award must be made through the online system on the Eco-Schools website. Please use this area throughout the year and add to the application as you go, the progress bars will show how complete each section is so you’ll know when you’re nearly ready.

If you have forgotten your password please contact us 02890 736920 or email Cathy. If you have moved schools or are no longer the Eco-Coordinator within your school please let us know so we can update our records.

As always you can submit your Green Flag application at any time of the year but these are the deadlines for a guaranteed assessment in the 2018/19 school year, schools applying after these dates might not be assessed by the end of June. Paper/emailed applications are no longer accepted.

  • Green Flag Renewals – Thursday 10th January 2019 – this is the deadline for all schools who are renewing their Green Flags this year. Assessments will be scheduled between February and May. Some renewal schools may not receive a site visit, see the website for more details.
  • New Green Flags – Friday 15th March 2019 – this is the deadline for all schools who are going for their first Green Flag this year. Assessments will be scheduled between April and June.

The Green Flag award requires renewal every two years but if yours has lapsed don’t worry – the application process is the same as for new flags and the Eco-Schools team can provide support and advice in regaining your flag, contact us on 02890 736920 or by email.

Posted on Mon 02 Jul 2018

It’s a family affair at Downpatrick Nursery School in another record breaking year for Green Flag Eco-Schools

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.”

Posted on Wed 27 Jun 2018

Eco-Schools Teachers Conference 2018 video!

As the end of another school year approaches we wanted to share our video from this year's Teachers Conference with you all.

Thank you to everyone who attended, exhibited, spoke and provided workshops and helped make it a brilliant day.

Eco-Schools Teachers Conference 2018 from Eco-Schools Northern Ireland on Vimeo.