When I started at my current school, I was handed a large box file and told ‘We’ve got Bronze, one of your subject objectives for the year is to get Silver.’ Delving through the box revealed the subject to be EcoSchools http://www.keepbritaintidy.org/ecoschools/. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a way of getting schools to be more ‘green’ and address environmental issues run by Keep Britain Tidy. They have recently added a fantastic section aimed at Early Years, but is perfectly pitched for pupils with SLD/ PMLD and the ideas can easily be adapted to be made more age appropriate.
My first worry was that the areas we needed to cover would be too detailed for our pupils. However, since EcoSchools is aimed at pupils of all ages there is quite a lot of flexibility. We had several tasks that we needed to complete, and some were easier than others.
Forming a committee was easy enough. Pupils from across the school volunteered and came to meetings with a member of staff from each Key Stage. One of those members of staff also happened to be a governor (tick). All pupils had a say in the meetings, and once we had completed our environmental review (tick) we planned what we were going to do over the course of the year and our other five meetings (tick).
Pupils needed a fair bit of support to complete this action plan (tick). To share it with the school (tick) we updated our noticeboard and held a school assembly. We wrote our EcoCode (tick) – At our school we turn off lights, pick up rubbish and recycle.
There’s a group of pupils in KS5 who, as part of their curriculum, come round each week and empty the recycling bins in every classroom. The Eco Committee felt these weren’t being used properly, so set out to remind staff and pupils what needed to go into them. Where we are, it’s not just paper! Other activities included making a log pile, preparing activities for Eco Week (rotting lunchboxes for all pupils to look at), writing to the office asking them to order recycled and to the caretaker asking her to order environmentally friendly things and writing a newsletter to parents. Of course, since we were being environmentally friendly this went straight onto the school website so that there was no paper being sent home!
Finally, a group of volunteers from JLR came in and overhauled the allotment and some of our working spaces.
Outcomes for the pupils were hard to measure. We try to embed environmental issues into the curriculum. KS3 had a term where their topic was ‘Rainforests’ and some fantastic work was produced. Our more able pupils now recycle paper, drinks bottles and yoghurt pots as routine, although other things creep into the recycling bin too. They also turn off ALL electrical things that have been left on – again, this can cause problems. We are investigating getting sensor switches for places like the laundry room which has no windows and so the light is permanently on even though no one is in there.
With pupils like ours it’s little and often, and I think that we will need to revisit the themes of the Silver Award over the coming terms to keep reminding pupils how important it is to recycle and to turn out the lights when leaving the room.