Flying the green flag with pride

SIAN Anderson and her colleagues at one of Suffolk’s fastest-growing schools are attempting to bring a “sustainable” theme to every activity in the classroom and beyond.

With 1,700 pupils, Kesgrave High School has already achieved the top “green flag” grade in the national Eco Schools scheme and is very much on target to become one of the greenest schools in the country.

Meanwhile, schools such as Chelmondiston primary are leading the way with implementing “green travel” plans for children and staff.

At Kesgrave High recycling of materials is the “norm”, solar panels are in use, 80% of the students already travel to and from school on bicycles and work goes on to retain the importance of a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) within the school grounds.

The move towards a “sustainable” approach to all aspects of school life began six years ago, leading on from work to protect and enhance the SSSI.

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Momentum built amongst both the staff and student communities and the school became involved in the Eco Schools project in 2007, achieving the Green Flag two years later. Work under this scheme is currently coordinated by Sian Anderson, head of environmental science, and deputy head teacher Cath Breckell.

Sian and another colleague, Iain Harris, have also supervised an eco-challenge expedition to South Africa last year and are organising one to Greece this summer – aimed at increasing students’ awareness of environmental and conservation issues globally.

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Sian’s interest in the environment stemmed from her work in achieving a BSc honours degree in zoology from the University of Liverpool, specialising in animal behaviour and conservation.

She said: “The school believes that its sustainable development initiatives encourage a long-term interest in the environment. A growing number of the students leaving Kesgrave go on to study a degree in environmental science or related subjects.

“The National Framework recommends that sustainable schools should be ‘models’ of good practice. “It is this sense of being visible and open in the immediate and wider community to share ideas, good practice and collaborate regularly that is so vital to the success of sustainability.”

A “whole school” paper recycling system is in place and other material recycled in clued mobile phones and inkjet cartridges.

Students have installed bat boxes, bird boxes and otter holts and created amphibian hibernation sites, reptile basking areas and a suitable habitats for stag beetle populations.

The woodland is also one of the school’s outdoor classrooms where biology and ecology can be studied.

There is a gardening club where students can get involved with planting and preparing vegetables in the grounds; the organic produce being used in catering lessons.

A butterfly conservation area is being landscaped and students will breed and release appropriate species.

The school recently bought an additional field and has kept the hedgerows to maintain wildlife corridors.

Solar panels have been installed on the technology department roof and the energy and cost savings are monitored by students.

They also monitor the en ergy used by individual departments in the school on a weekly basis and “name and shame” the worst performers.

The school hopes to erect a small wind turbine erected in the near future.

Kesgrave High is nationally recognised for its sustainable transport policy, about 80% of students already walking or cycling to school from the large housing estates in the area.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is encouraged throughout the curriculum and the school canteen has introduced a “healthy options” menu.

Inspired by learning about “fair trade” in business studies, students established a group to promote the use of Fairtrade products across the school. The majority of departments now use Fairtrade products in their staff rooms.

Environmental issues are often referred to when students lead lead assemblies and group sessions.

The youngsters are involved in the planning and development of the Eco-Schools project.

The school is keen to involve the wider community in its sustainable development initiatives. For example, parents are invited to bat watching evenings in the Autumn, and local people have been invited into school to hear from visiting speakers on environmental issues.

A school Eco Fair encouraged the community to engage with projects such as home recycling and the school’s renewable energy production.

The school has also built a network of partnerships with external organisations to support its sustainable development work. These include: local primary schools, the Greenways Countryside Project, Suffolk Constabulary, Natural England, local farmers and local councils.It is also a member of The Princes Rainforest Trust and the Carbon Trust.

Meanwhile, Chelmondiston Primary School has been promoting the idea of “sustainable travel” for the past two years.

Teacher, Jane Crabb, said: “We regularly hold activities where the children are encouraged to walk.

“When possible we use our local area to pursue curriculum activities and therefore the children walk to their destinations. If we are undertaking studies in Ipswich we try to use public transport if it is feasible.”

All the children participate in the Cycling Proficiency programme before they leave the school.

Both Kesgrave high and Chelmondiston Primary were shortlisted for the Suffolk – Creating the Greenest county awards, announced last week.

The other “green” schools shortlisted were Highfield Nursery, Birchwood Primary, Hoxne Primary, All Saints at Newmarket, Nacton Primary, Foxborough Middle and Castle Hill Primary.

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