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Reforms face cash hitch

Stafford College's environmental policy working group has an uphill task getting green issues on the agenda as it faces annual cuts of Pounds 600, 000 for the next three years.

Alan Hughes, head of the policy group says: "Environmental issues are taken seriously here, but they tend to get pushed out by other priorities."

Since the environmental group formed three years ago after the Toyne Report, it has agreed an environmental policy document, raised awareness amongst its 450 staff and 10,000 students and got practical measures off the ground.

These include establishing a recycling scheme for paper, bottles, cans, waste oil, furniture and equipment and buying environmentally-sound materials and equipment, including energy-saving light fittings and mounting an awareness campaign for the Environment Department's Wasting Energy Costs the Earth initiative.

Students are also getting involved. They have started an aluminium can recycling scheme, raising cash to be ploughed back into student funds. And they are enhancing the college environment by making striking artwork to display in college, often using recycled materials.

"Many of the students are passionate in their beliefs and concern for the environment," says Paul Baker, who teaches environmental management and conservation. "They want things to happen fast and don't have time for older people who put up administrative obstacles."

One obstacle is money. The environmental group has no budget and is run on a voluntary basis. Julian Maslin, another member, feels much more could be done. "If we had the resources we could earn money by training local businesses to improve their environmental performance."

Stafford has an unusually good spread of environmental courses, involving both A-level and NVQ students working with local schools, wildlife and conservation bodies.

Recent projects have included surveys of vegetation on a nature reserve, coppicing in a managed woodland, dry-stone walling, creating footpaths for disabled people on a nearby marshland, devising a wildlife train for schools in Cannock Chase, and creating a nature train for a local primary school.

Efforts to green the curriculum are embryonic. An audit of good practice, starting with a questionnaire to all staff, is only now beginning. "We've had to tackle the easier tasks first," Alan Hughes admits.

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