Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jacqui's project

Sustainable Development course Project of Jacqui:

Promoting Sustainable Development education in primary schools.

Introduction and Idea:

The basic idea is that introducing children to sustainability and environmental issues at an early age, and encouraging children to respect and enjoy living in nature, should have a positive effect on their attitude, interests and behaviour as they develop into adults. Children are the future of our planet and it is worth investing in them to promote future generations of environmentally and globally aware citizens.


1. I started off making some phonecalls around local primary schools. Many said that they were too busy to talk but if I emailed them some questions they would be happy to help out.

2. I was also invited to a few schools to have a look at what they were doing pro-sustainability.

Of particular interest was a small rural school near St Andrews in Fife, called Dunino Primary School. This school is somewhat a pioneer of developing environmental issues into the curriculum, made easier I suspect by the small number of teachers and rural location. I was lucky enough to be invited out and shown around by some of the pupils who very enthusiastically showed me their greenhouse, sensory garden etc. for more information and examples see their website.

Other schools were less cooperative, and mostly wished to remain anonymous.

The most common way for schools to be working on environmental issues is through the Eco-schools programme.

Introduction to the Eco-school programme

This is a programme run by an NGO who are trying to promote the inclusion environmental awareness into the school curriculum. They invited me to one of their twilight beginners training sessions designed for teachers thinking of getting their school involved in the programme (it was very interesting and they even gave me a certificate for attending!).

They encourage schools by providing a framework to work through and as they progress, introducing new topics, the school is given the opportunity to receive awards (starting at Bronze through Gold to Green flag status – after three green flags are awarded, the school is granted permanent Eco-school status.) Topics included on the curriculum are Litter, Water, Waste minimisation, Energy, School Grounds, Biodiversity, Transport, Health and Well-being.

Schools are also awarded small financial grants to help towards the costs of becoming more environmentally friendly (eg to pay for training, advertising, green events etc).

The organisation also provides some training, and sends out representatives to assess the schools.

3. I decided to carry out an investigation of the Eco-school programme and find out how effective it was from the perspective of the school. I was also interested to find out how schools were benefiting, and whether any improvements, environmentally, were actually to be found as a result of participation in the programme.


While many schools were kind enough to fill in my survey, I ended up taking a broader sample area than expected – this is because I felt I had limited time and didn’t want to put too much pressure on schools to send the survey back really quickly – as a result I emailed the survey out to about 50 schools but only had a 40% return rate on time.

The results of my survey came up with the following general trends.

- Schools said they had a general positive impact of being involved.

- Teachers found it fairly easy to integrate the topics into the curriculum.

- Teachers found that the main constraints stopping the scheme from being more successful in their school was the lack of time to organise, lack of funding, and the lack of support.

- Some schools found no benefit to pupils (but no negative impact either), while some schools found a positive impact on the pupils – this was not reflected in general intelligence or performance, but on ‘life-skills’ such as communication, willingness to learn and wanting to achieve more for themselves and for their community. Most teachers thought that they saw some small benefits to the pupils.

- All schools considered the issues addressed to be very important; teachers were quite interested, and children generally very interested.

- Only a very small amount of time was actually dedicated towards extra time spent in the classroom on environmental issues, at most 1 – 2 hours a week.

- All schools saw the benefit of coordinating with and learning from other schools, although only one school had received any kind of support from another school, and only one school had given support to other schools.

- All schools stated that they would benefit from extra resources and training opportunities to help them work towards the awards; although none explicitly said they were discouraged by lack of funds, a lack of extra funds was often cited as a reason for not being more environmentally proactive.

- This is despite many schools stating that their teachers had gone to none of the free training sessions provided by Eco-schools, and the availability of training from other organisations.

- Most schools had given no feedback back to Eco-schools programme, despite having the contentions about lack of funding, training and support.

- Most schools were unaware that there is an Eco-school support group in their area.

- Most schools, with 2 exceptions, were unaware of other programmes and opportunities to be involved in.

- Lastly, all of the schools, with one exception, wanted more information on other involvement opportunities.


I have presented the results in a very readable format so it is quite obvious what the outcomes are:

For schools, being involved in the Eco-schools programme is good for the school, good for the pupils and good for the environment. As it stands it is a bit of a drain on over-worked teachers who would like to receive more support in any way they can, be that financial, support from parents, or more training to deliver the programme.

What I found from the session that I attended is that it should not be difficult to implement the programme, although I understand that some knowledge is required, as well as support from fellow-teachers within the school.

I think that teachers found it daunting and saw it as a whole lot of extra work, when in reality they did not realise that they do not have to do all the work themselves; most schools with green flags found that once a committee was set up, with parents on board, it became much easier and the benefits could really be seen. It might require a bit of effort to get going but the benefits far outweighed that.

I hoped that by doing the survey I had been able to draw schools and teachers’ attention towards some of the things they had perhaps been missing out on, such as the online Forum for sharing ideas, and the fact that other schools were available to support them with ideas and advice. After this evaluation I realised that more could be done.

Shortfalls of the Eco-schools programme, and Follow-up support

While I have highlighted many advantages of the programme, I was from time to time worried that schools may have got involved in the programme, not done very much over and above what they would have been doing anyway, and still neglecting to address issues such as global citizenship in the classroom.

I had asked in the survey whether schools were involved in any other organisation, programmes or similar. It turned out that a couple of schools had partner schools in Africa (Malawi and Zambia), and two schools were registered Fairtrade schools, but other than that there was a huge blank.

I did some research and put together an information file about other things that schools could be getting involved in. I have listed some of these below and put web addresses.

I also put together a list of organisations that provide training for teachers or other general sustainable development training, in the area.

I wanted to emphasise to schools that there is no shortage of information and support out there and that all they really need to do is to ask for help from some of these organisations. I even provided some information leaflets and details of people to contact within the organisation who were willing to supply help, training or workshops, having contacted them all myself beforehand.

For the schools who had requested it, I sent them out the information. I hope that you find it useful aswell.


I think that I am really quite lucky to have found that for my project there were already so many organisations set up and actually actively doing the things that I was interested to promote.

I know that that is not so true for many countries. I hope that the information provided is useful, and I certainly think that having an organisation or network of schools involved in the programme is a very motivating factor for schools to get involved.

I’m sure that if you know a local school in your country in need of some support, the organisations would be happy to be contacted.

Please contact me on jacmarscott@yahoo.co.uk if you have any questions about my project or would like me to help with your project about education.

Appendix of Information sources, websites and organisations (many of these are based in Scotland but there are also some international…)

Eco-schools http://www.ecoschoolsscotland.org/home/index.asp?linkID=6

Globe – and online resource for children, set up in England but now with links in over a hundred countries, allowing children to measure their environment at school and compare with other places in the world. http://globe.org.uk

Fairtrade – the Fairtrade foundation has materials available for schools, such as leaflets and action packs.


ENO (Environment Online) http://www.enoprogramme.org

The Drops Of Life - a global play about tree planting and co-operation:
ENO Tree Planting Day 2007

Grounds for Learning, the UK School grounds charity (learning through landscapes) - http://www.gflscotland.org.uk/

Sustainable Deveopment commission (UK government watchdog on SD issues) website – page at young people, learning, http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/pages/education.html

One World Centre, Dundee – can provide training courses for teachers in Scotland including Fife. Last year these were: Introduction to Global Citizenship and the Global Schools Partnership.

They also visit schools to deliver tailormade workshops for teachers.


Scotdec – promoting global citizenship in schools in Scotland - http://www.scotdec.org.uk/

Tree trunk – a toolkit about trees and woodlands from the forestry commission:


Story-line Scotland http://www.storyline-scotland.com/whatisstoryline.html

Rowanbank – a charity using performing arts to communicate environmental issues through workshops and performances http://www.rowanbank.org.uk/

Rewilding Childhood – getting children out of doors and having fun in green spaces. http://www.imagesfromtheedge.com/rewilding/index.htm

Plantlife – working to protect wild plants and their habitats, with loads of info on plantlife in the UK http://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/plantlife-scotland.html