Portobello High School in Edinburgh wins “Permanent Green Status” by EcoSchools Scotland programme

Portobello HIghby Irene Gimeno

Portobello High School is officially the “greenest secondary school in Scotland” according to the international programme, Ecoschools. The school attained permanent “greenflag status” after winning a string of awards in 2002, 2004 and 2007 for its kindness to the environment.

The EcoSchool programme in Scotland is managed by Keep Scotland Beautiful, an environmental charity which aims to achieve litter free and sustainable environments. The goals set by the organization for the schools involved in the initiative are “to improve the school’s environment, reduce litter and waste, reduce energy and water use, devise efficient ways of traveling to and from school, promote healthy lifestyles, encourage active citizenship, build strong partnerships with a variety of community groups and develop international and global links”.

In Portobello High School, the task is divided in two clubs that have led the centre to an absolute success: the Porty Planeteers and S6 Energy Police. The former club is formed by students of all years who meet once a week who are focused on the school’s flora and developing energy and water projects throughout the year. The latter club is integrated senior prefect volunteers whose duties are to make sure that the all members of the staff accomplish their mission of energy saving so that those members who do not succeed are “named and shamed in the school magazine”.

A publication described the school as a cente “currently based in a dilapidated, eight-storey building, with practically no green space, ageing facilities and lack of sports areas for children’s PE lessons.” The school will have to be rebuilt by 2013, after being rated the school in worst condition in the Scottish capital. However, the paper reported Headteacher Peigi Macarthur’s words where she said that the facilities are not as important as the commitment. She said: “There’s nothing about the building that impacts on eco school stuff, it’s all about education. I think it’s important that we educate youngsters on sustainability issues in order to prepare them for the future. Eco schools work offers so many rich learning opportunities in terms of respecting the environment and saving the world in the long term. One of the things we have is a school allotment that the youngsters and staff tend and grow produce and we use that in the home economics department.”

The programme was created in 1992 at a United Nations Conference on Environment and Development to generate an ecological conscience in youngsters and introduce local sustainable development goals. Consequently the Eco-Schools programme was developed in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education –of which the Scottish Government is part- and implemented in the United Kingdom a year later. Now there are more than 43 countries involved in Europe and Africa. They classify the schools with the Bronze Award, the Silver Award and its most prestigious recognition, the Green Flag, is awarded when an academic centre is committed to “the highest standards of in environmental education and management. The City of Edinburgh, with 235 schools registered in the programme, and the support received by the other 31 local authorities in the nation, make Scotland one the most ecological countries of those who follow the programme.

With regard to the news, the city education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren stated: “We are committed to putting environmental and global issues at the centre of what we do in Edinburgh. This is a major achievement for Portobello High and a great example of some of the positive work taking place in city’s schools.”