New EcoSchools initiative for Exmoor

Thanks to funding from the Exmoor National Park Authority Sustainable Development Fund and from Forum 21, a group of local environmental organisations are in the process of provided a series of workshops and tailored support that will enable all schools within the Park boundaries to achieve EcoSchools ‘Green Flag’ status by September 2011.

EcoSchools is a national scheme run by the environmental campaigns charity ENCAMS (website: www.eco-schools.org.uk), which is designed to involve the whole school and its wider community in ‘making their school as ‘green’ and environmentally aware as possible. It encourages bottom up involvement from pupils, as well as teachers, support staff and parents. There are three levels to the award: bronze and silver which can be self-assessed by the school and Green Flag status that is awarded by trained assessors. The award must be renewed every two years.

Until recently only those schools with particularly ‘green’ and motivated teachers have tended to apply for the award. However in the last few years, with increased national awareness of climate change and wider environmental issues and also with the launch of the Government’s Sustainable Schools policy more schools have registered for the award, including several schools from the Exmoor area. Minehead Middle School was awarded its Green Flag last year.

Many schools still need support and encouragement to build their confidence in applying for Green Flag status. Barriers include lack of staff time, lack of expertise in environmental issues and also the small size of some Exmoor schools. This initiative will help remove these barriers by offering training and support and by encouraging the sharing of good practice through meetings and a dedicated website. The project will be co-ordinated by education staff from the Field Studies Council at Nettlecombe Court and from the National Park, working closely with local partners from across the environment sector.

The initiative also links into the National Park’s carbon neutral strategy, which requires the ‘buy in’ of major energy consumers (such as schools) and of the younger generation of Exmoor residents.

Sustainability is a key aim of the National Park and schools are important routes into the delivery of this aim. EcoSchool actions will be much better integrated into wider and existing community projects and strategies than they might be if schools entered the EcoSchool scheme on their own and in isolation.

We hope that over the coming months, we will be able to report further on some of the successes of this exciting initiative, as Exmoor Schools work on their action plans and achieve Green Flag status.

If you require more information on local support available for EcoSchools contact Mark Ward at Nettlecombe Court Field Centre (01984 640320).

Forum 21

February 22  2010