Forget January 1st, the beginning of September always marks the start of the year for me. As the second week of term gets underway and I’m getting used to the alarm clock going off again, there’s a sense of sadness that the summer holidays are over, but also a sense of opportunity at what can be achieved in the new school year.
The start of this year marks three years since Green Schools Project was founded. After starting as a pilot with three schools, and expanding and trying new ideas in the second year, I feel that we are in a better position than ever to continue to work with schools to get their students involved in environmental projects, helping them to build essential skills while improving the local and wider environment. This is a quick outline of what has been achieved in the past year.
- New schools running the programme
There have been notable successes amongst schools that joined the programme, one of the best of these was Whitefield School in Barnet who joined in September 2017 and worked on a variety of projects during the year. They successfully campaigned for the school to stop using single use plastic plates and cutlery, winning support through a petition to the Headteacher. They also got the school recycling again, getting bins into each classroom and re-starting collections and came second in a National Eco-Schools debate challenge!
- Competition Winners
In the summer term, we launched the Green Schools Project competition for schools participating in the programme. Schools needed to create a student account and encourage their pupils to complete tasks for the projects that they were running. Eltham Hill in Greenwich won the secondary competition, completing 16 tasks, to gain 900 points for their projects on litter reduction and vegetable growing.
The primary school winners were Harrington Hill in Hackney, who completed 8 tasks for 400 points for their project to get the school recycling. Both schools won £250 to be spent on giving their work a boost this year and make their schools even Greener!
We will soon be re-setting the leader board and all schools participating will be in with a chance of winning the prize this year. All you need to do is join the programme, create a student account and get the students to complete the tasks!
- University Volunteers
In January we placed our first group of university student volunteers in schools. Five students from UCL were placed in primary and secondary schools in London doing courses from Natural Sciences to Education Studies. The feedback from teachers was fantastic, Dani King, Eco-Coordinator at Harrington Hill said, ‘Ana has been really helpful especially since we have children from Year R to 5 with us. It has been great for her to set up discussions with the older children before the younger ones join.’
All schools on the complete programme will have student volunteers working with them this year, and the aim is to set up links with universities outside London to help schools in other parts of the country with the programme.
- Lottery Grant, Sponsorship and Recruiting
We’ve been looking for innovative ways to fund the programme to help schools and were successful with an Awards for All Lottery grant to work with five schools in Waltham Forest this year. We have also secured sponsorship from Natixis to help grow the organisation, and from Aquaid to work with four schools in Hackney. We now have a ‘support us’ page on the website where businesses and individuals can find information about how to help Green Schools Project, so if you know of anyone who might be interested in helping us to grow, please spread the word!
Since gaining some funding we are now recruiting a programme manager to join the team. It’s only been me working on Green Schools Project in the day to day, so it will mean that I am a bit less lonely, and it will help us to reach more schools and grow our impact. The deadline for applications is this weekend (Sunday 16th September) so if you know someone that might be interested, please forward the link.
- Social Business Challenge
In two weeks we will be visiting our first school to run the Social Business Challenge. The aim is to raise awareness of how businesses can operate differently so that they help to solve rather than create the environmental challenges that the society is facing today. It will be run as a competition, with the best ideas being selected to present their idea at the Houses of Parliament in front of a group of MPs and Social Enterprise experts. Get in touch if you are interested in running this in your school.
This could be the year that there is a shift in perception towards climate change. The Beast from the East in March, followed by record April temperatures and the joint hottest summer on record has certainly marked it as the year that climate change has switched from something that ‘happens in other countries’ or ‘in the future’ to something that we can see clearly happening here and now in the UK.
I’m hoping that the coming year will see Green Schools Project grow to help more young people get involved with an issue that they see as a top concern and want more action taken to tackle it.
If you’d like your school to get involved, click on Go Green!