Monitoring and Evaluation is one of the Seven Steps of the Eco-Schools framework that requires schools to measure, discuss, and act on their results. All of our projects were developed to include a form of measurement and these results were gathered to provide figures such as those illustrated below. This was a laborious process and a need for more homogenous results was identified. In response to this we developed an online ‘Data Zone’ which schools can use to track their progress and submit results as part of their Green Flag application. We hope to harvest robust results for all ten eco topics from the Data Zone. 2017/18 is the first year of this project and we anticipate exciting results in June 2018.
Some initial data monitoring and evaluation results indicate the following:
- Energy ‘Power Down Days’ in 2013 and 2014 saved an average of 32.7kWh/school; if every school in NI participated a saving of £1.2 million per year could be achieved.
- Two schools achieved zero waste to landfill status from 2013 after participation in waste recycling challenge.
- Participation in the Wrigley Litter Less project saw a 45% reduction in pupil littering in 2015.
- Travel to school by sustainable transport rose by 21% during the 2017 Translink Travel Challenge.
The best examples of qualitative results have come from the teachers directly or from their Green Flag applications. We have collected these results in case studies over the years and have included two examples on the following page.
Ballycraigy Primary School, Antrim, Northern Ireland – 140 pupils
Ballycraigy Primary became an Eco-School in 2005. The school, situated in a socially deprived area, had experienced anti-social behavior in the past. The grounds of the school were also an uninspiring mixture of tarmac and hard surfaces. From humble beginnings and driven by the dedication and determination of its staff, the program was slowly introduced into the consciousness of the local population. It all started with hens! The school rescued hens from intensive farming and nursed them back to health at the school. Parents were approached for help to look after the hens during the weekends and schools holidays. There was no looking back from there. Pupils and parents together have worked over the years to develop a heritage garden, a vegetable garden, a polytunnel, a pond, an outdoor fitness trail, a wildlife trail, and wildflower areas. Through funding applications and competition prizes the school has raised over £60,000 for their eco work. Now every pupil in the school has access to outdoor learning and a greater understanding of the biodiversity and history of their area. The school has worked with many community organizations and helped a local Nursery develop their own outdoor areas.
A ‘Green Gym’ gardening club is available to parent groups using the school facilities. As a result of this there is a much greater sense of community involvement in the school and anti-social problems are a thing of the past. Ballycraigy Primary is a great example of how a whole community can benefit from having an active Eco-School at its heart. Ballycraigy Primary now has 5 Green Flags and is an Ambassador Eco-School. (See Appendix A for Interview with Ballycraigy teacher.)
Mill Strand Integrated School and Nursery, Portrush, Northern Ireland – 245 pupils
Integrated education in Northern Ireland has grown from the will of parents wishing to see their children educated with peers from all religions and from across the community. The desire to found Mill Strand was such that a group of families re-mortgaged their homes to fund it and the school began in 1987. This grassroots start is reflected in a free thinking and innovative approach to education at the school which advocates for a variety of holistic and experiential learning methods. This mind-set is well suited to the Eco-Schools philosophy and the program has flourished at Mill Strand since they registered in 2007. The school is fortunate to be located on the spectacular Causeway Coast and makes frequent use of the nearby beaches and landscape for outdoor learning – pupils can often be found on the local beach undertaking various investigative activities. The school and pupils care deeply about protecting and caring for their environment and are keen litter collectors; they are the first school in NI to purchase a 2 Minute Beach Clean board for their local community. Following concerns raised by a pupil, the school recently banned the use of plastic straws. Mill Strand is an excellent example of innovative learning and free-thinking complementing the Eco-Schools program. They have five Green Flags and are an Ambassador Eco-School. (See Appendix B for Interview with Mill Strand Teacher.)