Eco-Schools COVID-19 Update

Eco-Schools COVID-19 Update

Yesterday, 22/02/2021, the UK Government announced its plan to begin easing lockdown restrictions, in order to gradually unlock England. Part of this announcement was that all pupils and college students will return fully, with before and after-school clubs opened, by the 8th March. Having digested this information, the Eco-Schools team wanted to provide an update on what the Eco-Schools programme will look like for the remainder of the academic year.

Before moving onto updates and guidance, the Eco-Schools team would like to say a huge thank you to all our wonderful Eco-Coordinators, their colleagues and the young people they teach. Since COVID-19 regulations were introduced we have been overwhelmed by how Eco-Coordinators and their Committees have continued to work on the Eco-Schools programme even whilst working under restricted conditions in school, or learning from home. Remarkably, some Eco-Committees have even treated this as an opportunity to involve pupil’s families and friends in their Eco-Schools work. We have seen Committee meetings, discussions and debates hosted on Zoom or Teams with a school’s whole community invited. We have seen Eco-Committees design Eco-Schools actions that can be completed from home and involve the whole family. We have seen whole school Eco-Code competitions and Eco-Days, which have been coordinated online. And, finally, we have also seen many schools participate in and complete our award-winning #EcoSchoolsAtHome challenges. So thank you to all of our wonderful Eco-Coordinators, who continue to inspire and protect our planet, even during the most difficult circumstances.

Seven Step Updates

Step 1: Eco-Committee

  • Step 1: Even though all pupils are expected back in school on the 8th March, Eco-Schools work completed at home can still be used as evidence towards an Eco-Schools Green Flag for the foreseeable future. The Eco-Schools team are also busy preparing new #EcoSchoolsAtHome challenges to supplement the original ones.

Whilst schools are opening to all pupils from the 8th March, restrictions will remain that limits social contact between members of the school community, our next updates address this:

  • Step 1: An Eco-Committee can be formed from one, single, year group, or class, or, if multiple classes and year groups are on the Eco-Committee meetings can take place virtually.
  • Step 1: The Eco-Schools team also understand it might be difficult to have additional adults on your Eco-Committee this year, you can still achieve an Eco-Schools Green Flag with no additional adults on your Eco-Committee. 

Step 2: Environmental Review

Our original Environmental Reviews where designed to be completed by hand as Eco-Committee members moved around the school to answer questions. With restrictions in place, this is no longer practical. Instead, we designed a new, simplified Environmental Review which can be completed and uploaded digitally without the need to move throughout a school.

Step 3: Action Plan

The world has changed rapidly since the COVID-19 pandemic began and, because of this, the Eco-Schools team realise that some actions may have stalled, had limited impact or been postponed and this is reflected in our next update:

  • Step 3: Since March 2020, some actions may have stalled, had limited impact or been postponed. The Eco-Schools team are understanding of this and this should not prevent schools applying for an Eco-Schools Green Flag. The Eco-Schools team do not expect actions to be successful or complete in order to apply for and achieve an Eco-Schools Green Flag. 

As previously mentioned, in response to many pupils learning at home,  Eco-Committees throughout England planned environmental actions that their school community could still participate in, and complete at home. This can be used as evidence towards an Eco-Schools Green Flag for the foreseeable future:

  • Step 3: Environmental actions completed at home, or participation in #EcoSchoolsAtHome challenges can be used as evidence when applying for an Eco-Schools Green Flag for the foreseeable future. 

Step 4: Curriculum Links

This step remains largely unaffected by changes in COVID regulations. Over the past months, the easiest way we have seen Eco-Coordinators gather evidence to support this step is through e-mailing teaching colleagues a list of the ten Eco-Schools topics and asking them if any of their work relates to these topics. We have also seen several Eco-Coordinators successfully continue with planned eco-themed days or weeks of learning, albeit remotely. This has proved an excellent way to not only raise environmental awareness, but also bring togetherness to school communities who have been forced apart by COVID regulations.

Step 5: Informing and Involving

This step is the one that has been forced to change most during the COVID pandemic. As previously mentioned, the Eco-Schools team understand that projects and actions may have been restricted by regulations or completed outside school and this is reflected in our next updates:

  • Step 5: Eco-Schools Actions may have only involved groups within a school community (e.g. single classes) and this is adequate when applying for an Eco-Schools Green Flag.
  • Step 5: Environmental Actions completed outside school, including #EcoSchoolsAtHome challenges can be used as evidence towards Step 5: Informing and Involving.

The Eco-Schools team also understand that movement within a school may continue to be limited, even when all pupils begin returning on the 8th March and there will also be continued emphasis on cleanliness. This might make it difficult to create and/or update an Eco-Board leading to the next update:

  • Step 5: If you are unable to have a physical Eco-Board digital Eco-Boards (e.g. Eco-Page on a school website) can be used in replacement. If this is also not possible, Eco-Coordinators can upload separate documents, intended for the Eco-Board, when they complete an online Green Flag application and create an Eco-Board at a later date.

Step 6: Monitoring and Evaluation

Updates to this step reflect, how environmental actions may have been impacted by rapidly changing regulations:

  • Step 6: The Eco-Schools team understand that some actions and projects may have had limited success, stalled or been postponed due to the COVID pandemic. Despite this, they can still be used as evidence towards an Eco-Schools Green Flag.

Step 7: Eco-Code

Finally, as mentioned in the original section of this news story, many schools have innovated and launched online competitions to create their Eco-Code (also giving them a chance to reflect on their Eco-Schools work with their whole school). Our final update, focuses on a more practical aspect of our step criteria.

  • Step 7: If you are unable to display your Eco-Code on your Eco-Board, or throughout your school due to COVID restrictions, this can be done at a later date when safe to do so. 

Assessment Update

This academic year, schools, Eco-Coordinators and Eco-Committees throughout England have continued to have their environmental efforts rewarded and recognised with an Eco-Schools Green Flag. The Eco-Schools team hopes the Seven Step guidance and updates above signify the flexible approach the Eco-Schools team have adopted for awarding Eco-Schools Green Flags since the pandemic began. This is an approach we will continue with until, at least, the end of the academic year. Before providing an update on the assessment process it is worth explaining that the Eco-Schools Green Flag has been designed to recognise and reward teachers and pupils for their environmental work – it is not designed, or used, to criticise and critique schools. With this in mind, if you have any concerns or questions about any aspect of the Green Flag application, please, get in touch. The Eco-Schools team are not only here to help, we are passionate about doing so.

Updates on the Eco-Schools Green Flag Assessment Process for this academic year:

  • This academic year Eco-Schools Green Flags will be awarded solely based on completed electronic applications. Unfortunately, for obvious reasons, we cannot conduct in-person assessment visits this year. The Eco-Schools team will be reviewing this during the summer break.
  • If we require additional evidence to support a Green Flag application, we will get in touch and provide support to gather this evidence – we do not simply ‘pass or fail’ Green Flag applications.
  • As mentioned above, we have adopted a flexible approach to our criteria this academic year and understand that Eco-Schools work may have been negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic. The Eco-Schools team will not let this prevent us from recognising passionate and dedicated young people. If you have any questions about any aspect of the Eco-Schools programme, please get in touch.
  • Finally, the Eco-Schools team aim to desk-assess Green Flag Applications within two working days of submission, there may be a delay sending awarded Green Flags out (depending on government guidelines) and the fee for an Eco-Schools Green Flag accreditation remains £200 +VAT, which will be charged before an Eco-Schools Green Flag is dispatched. 

Thank you to all the inspirational teachers and pupils out there and remember the Eco-Schools team are always available to help and support!

Lee, Karyn, Francis & Shona