20 years of ‘Flying the Flag’ – an interview with our longest standing Green Flag School!

20 years of ‘Flying the Flag’ – an interview with our longest standing Green Flag School!

Here at Eco-Schools, we celebrate every time a school gets their Green Flag. It’s not an easy task, requiring hard work and dedication, but an achievement that brings big rewards for the whole school.

One school in Kent has shown themselves to truly live and breathe the values of Eco-Schools. Last summer, Raglan Primary became our longest standing Green Flag school, having flown the flag for 20 consecutive years. That’s an impressive eight successful assessments and countless projects to improve the sustainability of the school.

We caught up with Eco-Co-ordinator Jo O’Donnell and Head Teacher Kathleen Margetts to find out what flying the Green Flag means for them – and learn a few tips to pass on along the way!

“Eco-Schools at Raglan Primary is very much a whole school approach. From the youngest member of our Eco-Committee right up to our senior leadership, there’s real interest and engagement in what we can do to make our every-day activities more eco-friendly.” said Kathleen.

“The message is highly visible for every child in the school. We give our Eco-Committee regular assembly time to update everyone on their latest projects and improvements. This is great for them too, as we’ve really seen their public speaking skills improve and confidence increase.

Being a Green Flag Eco-School for 20 years means it really is embedded in our culture. Parents know what we stand for, as does the local community, and we’re proud of the reputation it gives us.”

So what has been the key to their success?

Eco-Coordinator Jo O’Donnell believes that the value is in empowering the children and keeping the projects student-led.

“The key for me is being enthusiastic about their ideas as a committee. I take time to really listen to them, and get passionate with them about what they are suggesting. My role then, as an Eco-Co-ordinator, is to encourage them to start small and work their way on to bigger things – I think that’s a good life lesson to learn too.

For example, they wanted to focus on food waste and had some big ideas – I encouraged them to look at small changes that could genuinely make a difference but with a longer term plan in mind. So, knowing that children in the early years received free fruit, they set up a fruit composting process with them and stopped a significant amount of food going to waste. The next step was to use this compost in the school gardens.

We’re now able to grow vegetables in the garden which are being used in our kitchen at lunch time. What started as a small activity has actually grown into something even more significant.”

So what’s next for Raglan Primary?

Kathleen was looking forward to some big plans over the next couple of years “We’re developing our outside area massively, so School Grounds and Biodiversity have been topics we’ve focussed on recently. The hope of the Eco-Committee is that lessons can be taught in the grounds, making links with Eco-Schools and the curriculum even more obvious as children are inspired by the environment around them.

We think it’s very important to celebrate the success of our Eco-Schools initiatives. By bringing out these successes and reflecting on them, it not only gives the children a sense of achievement and increased self-esteem, but allows us to ‘land the learning’ of what skills they’ve developed to make it happen.”

With support from all sides, it’s clear that Raglan have a plan in place to continue making positive environmental changes for many years to come. We wish them all the best of luck on that journey.

If you’ve got a story about an Eco-Schools initiative that needs to be shouted about – get in touch! tim.knappett@keepbritaintidy.org