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Schools rewarded for sustainable efforts

Abbey Mead Primary Academy pupils and staff with their Eco-Schools Green Flag

SCHOOLS across Leicester have received awards for their efforts to put environmental sustainability and locally-grown food at the heart of their work.

More than 20 schools were recognised at the annual Eco Schools and Food for Life celebration event, which is organised by the city council’s Environmental Education team.

The online ceremony took place last week as part of The Great Big Green Week, a national initiative from the Climate Coalition which celebrated how people are taking action to tackle climate change and protect green spaces.

Food for Life is funded by the city council’s public health team in Leicester, with a focus on improving food in school and encouraging healthy eating. More than 80 schools are enrolled in the scheme.

Among the recipients were Rushey Mead Primary School, which received a bronze Food for Life award for work to drive up the quality of lunchboxes, improve the school meal ordering system and transform a food-growing area. The children benefited hugely from all the produce that was grown, cooking with it and taking it home to families to cook with.

Charnwood and Stokes Wood primary schools gained silver Food for Life awards. Charnwood liaised with parents to make lunchboxes healthier, holding healthy eating assemblies. The school is also committed to ensuring all pupils learn to cook. During lockdown, they uploaded recipes for families to try at home and take photographs.

Stokes Wood has changed the food culture in school. Parents are invited into school for lunch and teachers eat with the children at lunchtimes. Everyone has worked hard to reduce food waste at lunchtimes, and the school participates in family ‘cook and eat’ sessions. All children have an opportunity to grow food at school as well as cook with the food they’ve grown.

Seven city schools received their Eco-Schools Green Flag for the first time at the ceremony. The flag, which is awarded by Keep Britain Tidy, means the schools have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to green initiatives such as saving energy, recycling, encouraging sustainability and making spaces to promote wildlife.

A further 10 schools whose awards were up for renewal gained their Green Flag for a second time, while Bridge Junior School was awarded a Green Flag for an outstanding third time, meaning they have held the prestigious award for more than six years.

In total, 52 schools in Leicester – including primary, secondary and special schools – now have an Eco-Schools Green Flag award. This is the highest number in any local authority area in England.

Another Green Flag school, Abbey Mead Primary Academy, presented its work at the event, showcasing its ‘edible playground’. This project saw pupils helping to design a new growing area for their playground, creating a purpose-built space for outdoor learning. They sowed seeds and harvested vegetables to learn more about food’s journey from plant to plate. This fresh, organic produce was then used for cookery lessons.

Deputy city mayor for environment and transport Cllr Adam Clarke, who was at the ceremony, said: “It was tremendously inspiring and encouraging to hear about the great work going on at city schools to place sustainability at the heart of the curriculum.

“Our pioneering Environmental Education team has helped more than 50 schools to gain an Eco-Schools Green Flag, as well as organising numerous events throughout the year and especially for The Great Big Green Week. This work will help us to address the climate emergency, because we know that children and young people not only care passionately for their environment, they also help to carry these important messages out into the wider community.

“I congratulate all of the award-winners and look forward to hearing about even more of our schools joining in with this work, reinforcing our position at the top of the national leaderboard.”

Lisa Didier, programme manager for Food for Life in Leicester, added: “It was great to celebrate the achievements of the three Food for Life awarded schools and it has been admirable during lockdown that all schools in the city, together with school caterers, have been ensuring that children have had access to good food and are continuing to ensure that children have the cooking skills to make their own food.”

You can follow the Environmental Education team on Twitter at @EcoSchoolsLCC