Innovative Practice - Eco learning

With Pledge 4 Veg, pupils campaign to encourage members of the community to grow their own produce

Nicola Sheppey

The background

St Christopher's CofE High School in Accrington first set up its eco group in 2008, consisting of more than 80 pupils who created various projects to help the environment.

Despite growing their own fruit and vegetables on school grounds, the pupils did not feel able to grow produce at home as they lived in an area of terraced housing without large gardens. Then some Year 8 pupils in the group thought up an idea to make that possible.

The project

In November last year, the eco group presented an idea to the local council called Pledge 4 Veg, which would allow the community to grow their own produce in pots. If members of the public pledged to grow their own vegetables in 2011, they would be given starter pots of winter onions and garlic.

The pupils contacted local businesses and became a partner of an environmental group called the Prospects Foundation for funding. It also collected local compost from waste management company Sita and unneeded plant pots from building sites.

After gaining backing from the local council, Pledge 4 Veg was launched to the public at the school's Christmas fair. The school has gone on to publicise the project via local newspapers and radio. The pupils have also created a 50-second video tutorial and uploaded it online.

Pupils have set up camp in local supermarkets to convince shoppers to pledge, and collected a further 500 pledges by promoting themselves at a home match of football club Accrington Stanley. They have received pledges from the mayor, primatologist Jane Goodall, celebrity chef Nigel Haworth and the entire squads of Accrington Stanley and Blackburn Rovers.

Representatives of the project have also gone into primary schools in the area and to meetings of local clusters of teachers. At an "Eco Factor" event to promote sustainability, pupils competed at creating dishes out of produce grown in the pots.

Following the success of Pledge 4 Veg, the group has planned a calendar with seasonal recipes for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Tips from the scheme

- Use the media and local events to promote your campaign, which will allow a wider cross-section of the public to get involved.

- Getting local names and celebrities on board will give your project more credibility with members of the general public who may not otherwise have been interested.

Evidence that it works

By spring, the pupils had collected more than 2,000 signatures for Pledge 4 Veg and had given away more than 1,000 starter pots. At the school's summer eco fair in June, a further 2,000 pots were given away. The campaign believes each starter pot saves energy equivalent to 1.5kg of coal, while allowing members of the public the satisfaction of growing their own vegetables.

The project helped St Christopher's reach the shortlist in the Outstanding Sustainable School category of this year's TES Schools Awards.

The project

Approach: Encouraging members of the community to grow their own vegetables at home

Started: November 2010

Leader: Wendy Litherland, the school's sustainability co-ordinator

The school

Name: St Christopher's CofE High School

Location: Accrington, Lancashire

Number of pupils: 951

Age range: 11 to 18

Intake: Mixed-sex. The school specialises in technology

Ofsted overall rating: Good (2007).

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Nicola Sheppey

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