Most young people care deeply about environmental issues and wish to make a positive change in the environment around them. The Eco-Schools programme provides an ideal way for fostering environmental awareness in the entire school in a way that links to many curriculum subjects. Our primary aim regarding the Eco-Schools scheme is to combine learning and action for the improvement of the environmental performance of Eco-Schools.
It aims to make environmental awareness and action an intrinsic part of the life and ethos of a school. This should include the students, teachers, non-teaching staff and parents, as well as the local authority, the media and local businesses. Eco-Schools endeavours to extend learning beyond the classroom and develop responsible attitudes and commitment, both at home and in the wider community. Its participatory approach and combination of learning and action make it an ideal way for schools to embark on a meaningful path to improving the environments of schools and their local communities, and of influencing the lives of young people, school staff, families, local authorities, NGOs, and all other bodies involved in this vitally important area of work.
The Eco-Schools programme was developed in 1994 on the basis of the need for involving young people in finding solutions to environmental and sustainable development challenges at the local level, as identified at the UN Conference on Environment and Development of 1992. The programme was initiated by Member organisations of the Foundation for Environmental Education with the support of the European Commission.
The programme is now being implemented throughout the world: there are schools in Europe, Africa, North America, South America, Oceania and Asia. The number of Eco-Schools is growing as more and more schools take up the challenge and work towards improving their environment through education and action. Sixty-four countries are now signed up to the Eco-Schools programme, sharing the same methodology and concept, and are identified by the Eco-Schools logo and Green Flag.
The Eco-Schools Green Flag, awarded to schools with high achievement in their programme, is a recognised and respected eco-label for environmental education and performance. Here in Northern Ireland, the Eco-Schools Programme is operated by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, an environmental charity, and is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs and other organisations. The majority of local councils and our delivery partners also offer invaluable practical support for the programme.
Northern Ireland is ranked ninth out of the sixty-four participating countries for number of Green Flag Status Schools. We were also the first country in the world to award a Green Flag to one of its schools. This was Downpatrick Nursery on 15 June 1994. This is a fantastic achievement and one that Northern Ireland can be proud of.
All schools in Northern Ireland are now registered on the Eco-Schools Programme.
This is your opportunity to join an International programme with a rapidly growing community of schools all committed to Environmental Education and Sustainable Development.
Any school using the guidelines on this website or in the handbook can adapt the programme to their needs. While the Green Flag award will be given to schools that complete all the essential elements of the Eco-Schools programme, it should be remembered that the programme is flexible, and that different schools will find different routes to achieving Eco-School status.
The Eco-Schools highest award takes the form of a Green Flag. This can be flown outside the school or displayed in the foyer. However, it is important to remember that the programme is one of continual reduction of the school's environmental impact. Therefore, the award requires renewal every two years.