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How we did it

A secondary school in Swindon is recycling rubbish and giving pupils valuable lessons in citizenship, says head Elizabeth Cooper

The Ridgeway used to send three skips of rubbish a week to a landfill site.

We have cut that by a third as part of a green crusade, and we're saving about pound;2,000 a year on skip collections.

Our project started last year, thanks to our assistant site manager, Brian Phillips. He is a keen recycler and could see we were throwing away mountains of paper and cardboard.

He drew up a recycling plan and applied for a pound;2,200 lottery grant, which we were awarded last December. This allowed us to buy storage sheds, recycling bins and a trolley to collect waste paper. Every classroom has bins for paper, and around the school we have large plastic tubs for cans.

We used our school newsletter, staff meetings and assemblies to make everyone aware of the project.

We have been working closely with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to prepare a flyer for local primaries, promoting what we've done. And Swindon borough council has agreed a fortnightly collection of paper from school.

We have looked into recycling metal, wood, plastic and glass. There are some problem areas. For example, we can't recycle glass from the science department because it contains chemicals. But we're working on it.

I have the greatest respect for Brian. He got up in front of the whole school and said: "This is what I want to do. I'd like your commitment." He has involved pupils and staff, and we have managed to integrate the recycling work with the curriculum.

We used part of our grant money to buy a video camera, with which our AS-level media studies students have produced a film about our campaign as part of their course work.

This year, we held an environment week during which, for example, pupils in English took part in a poetry competition; their poems had to be about issues such as recycling or the ozone layer. Some were superb. It was an action-packed week that involved many strands of citizenship, and most subjects contributed.

We have applied for specialist status in science, and the context is the environment. We believe we can make significant contributions to the understanding of the subject.

Elizabeth Cooper is head of the Ridgeway, an 11-18 school in Wroughton, Swindon. She was talking to Martin Whittaker. Do you have a success story to share? Email:

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