Ten-year-old Sam McNeill was unequivocal about his school's need to embark on an environmental project. "Our wildlife area was an absolute and utter disgrace," he said.
Hagbourne primary, where Sam is a pupil, is described by the head, Richard Jones, as being in an "idyllic" part of south Oxfordshire, but staff felt the children's knowledge of nature was surprisingly limited. So, a year ago, Hagbourne set up a series of whole-school schemes designed to boost children's knowledge of their environment, using the school and playground as a starting point.
The results won Hagbourne the primary prize in this year's Award for Environment Action by Schools in the Community, organised jointly by The TES, Esso and Community Service Volunteers.
Mr Jones says that every child, aged between four and 11, was told to think about what they could do to improve their surroundings. The very young ones were taken on country walks. "This sparked lots off questions. The classrooms were full of pictures and stories about what they had seen."
The next age group (seven and eight-year-olds) concentrated on recycling, making posters and leaflets and distributing them to parents and visitors.
"They felt it would be far better to spread their good practice than keep it to themselves."
The older children were split into two groups: one observed aesthetic and scientific changes in the local landscape, and produced an illustrated country diary; the other made and edited a 12-minute video about restoring a wildlife area.
Sam wrote that Hagbourne's project was special because "we are helping the environment to grow its wonderful works of art".
The school is planning to spend the Pounds 500 prize on a "fragrance and sensory garden" to be designed by the pupils.
The other winners were: primary: Kellington school, Goole, Humberside (second); Mersham county primary, Ashford, Kent (third). Secondary: Royston comprehensive, Barnsley (first): Newport Free grammar, Saffron Walden, Essex (second); Heathfield high school, Congleton, Cheshire (third).
Special schools: St Christopher school, Leigh on sea, Essex (first); Kennel Lane school, Bracknell, Berkshire (second).
The Solutions Children's Home, Hope Under Dinmore, Hereford, won a joint environment project and tree planting prize, and Mrs Susan Long of the Welwyn Garden City Home Advisory Service and Whitehall primary school, Illingworth, Halifax, won tree awards worth Pounds 300. Prizes were presented yesterday at the CSV international conference at Wembley in London.