Scotland flies the green flag

THE Scottish Executive engaged in a flurry of activity this week to demonstrate its green credentials in the wake of the inconclusive Earth Summit in Johannesburg.

On a visit to the Royal School of Dunkeld, Cathy Jamieson, Education Minister, announced a new drive to make schools more environmentally conscious through the "eco-school" programme.

Just 295 Scottish schools are involved at present, around 10 per cent. Only 31 have earned the right to "green flag" status, having demonstrated sustained levels of environmental awareness over a period of two years.

The Dunkeld school is one of those and Ms Jamieson pledged more money to expand the eco-school programme. A video has been produced for schools interested in finding out more.

Ms Jamieson said: "The eco-schools programme is an excellent and fun way for young people to make a difference. It has already taken root in Scotland but I want to see more schools actively involved."

She added: "Values and citizenship are key aspects of our national priorities in education, which all local authorities are developing. Achieving eco-school status is one way of demonstrating practical involvement in promoting citizenship and environmental awareness.

Three councils have already said they want all their schools to become eco-schools - Argyll and Bute, Perth and Kinross and North Lanarkshire. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, Jack McConnell, the First Minister, was visiting Banareng primary in Pretoria which has set up a link with the Royal School of Dunkeld.

The two schools - and ministers - exchanged messages on Monday and the Executive took the opportunity to announce that Scotland is to host a major conference of eco-school co-ordinators from around the world this autumn.

The First Minister also announced that Scotland has become a partner in the international eco-school programme, with the United Nations and the European Commission.

Mr McConnell met Professor Kader Asmal, South Africa's minister of education, to discuss these and other educational links between the two countries.

He was accompanied to the South African school by Stephanie Wiseman, a pupil from Lunnasting primary in Shetland which has built its own wind turbine as part of a project funded by the WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund).

The school was given pound;15,000 for a sustainable development project and the turbine has reduced electricity bills by pound;2,000 a year. Stephanie was one of four "earth champions" from each of the UK home countries selected to go to South Africa for the summit.

The challenge facing Banareng primary was rather different. Most pupils come from what is officially described as an "informal settlement" beside a landfill site. Their environmental contribution was to transform the school grounds from wasteland to bright gardens.

The gardens are now used to provide free school meals for 670 children, to raise money and as an outdoor classroom.

Despite the interest sparked by the Earth Summit, WWF Scotland says that schools have a long way to go to raise awareness.

Writing in last week's TES Scotland, Linda Cracknell, the fund's education officer in Scotland, said handful of pilot projects would not be enough to persuade the next generation of the need for fundamental change.

Leader, page 22

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