New school recycles old

30th June 2006 at 01:00
Even the trees went with it when St Christopher's moved, reports Jill Tunstall

When it comes to the environment, St Christopher's school is about as green as they come.

Caring for allotments, a reclaimed quarry and more gardens than Alan Titchmarsh could manage are all on the timetable.

The Wrexham special school even recycled itself when it moved to a bigger, newer site. Mature trees, sheds, paving stones, railings, sinks, flooring all came with them. What they could not re-use they sold, and trees that refused to budge became sculptures.

"A lot of our pupils find change hard and it really helped to start by planting the trees," says deputy head Chris Pittaway, whose classroom is decked out as a tropical rainforest. "We were putting down roots in more ways than one."

The school's policy has recently earned it permanent Eco-School status - one of only a handful of schools in Wales to receive the award in the 12 years since it began.

So environmentally harmonious and litter-free is the school that, to mark this week's Keep Wales Tidy Week, pupils and staff have had to look elsewhere.

Today, the timetable is suspended while pupils clean rivers and spruce up the town's "grot spots".

"I really believe in giving the kids ownership of the school, it gives them a sense of belonging," says Mr Pittaway, who talked local landowner, the Duke of Westminster, into donating a shed as an outdoor classroom, and Tarmac into handing over redundant, but wildlife-rich, Borras Quarry, which is now the school's eco-centre.

St Christopher's has 240 pupils, aged between five and 19, with a vast range of special needs, from severe physical illness to disaffected teenagers on Asbos.

"But this brings them all together," says Mr Pittaway. "We've seen big changes in a lot of our pupils as a result of the Eco-Schools' work. Pupils who are aggressive find a new purpose.

"One boy went on to set up his own grounds maintenance business as a result and is doing well."

Former pupil Ian Rowell, now a lorry driver, says: "I felt a sense of achievement like never before."

THE ECO SYSTEM

The Eco-Schools programme was born out of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit as a way of delivering Local Agenda 21 issues to young people via the education system.

In Wales the project is run by Keep Wales Tidy. There are now more than 1,250 registered schools in Wales including nursery and special education.

Two-thirds are expected to register by 2008.

The new Eco-Schools Handbook for Wales is currently being sent to schools.

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