John Craven: Schoolchildren flying Green Flag

John meets pupils who have won an award for improving their environment

Gloucestershire floods


Eco-warriors abound in the Warwickshire village of Ryton-on-Dunsmore, but not the kind that shin up trees in the hope of defying developers. For a start, some of them are only five years old.

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Obviously headline-grabbing militancy is not on the agenda for these campaigners; instead they are slowly and purposefully greening their school and surroundings – and enjoying the task enormously. It’s a small start from small people but, as we know, oak trees grow from acorns and children are the willing foot soldiers in any battle to make the world a better place.

During my years on Newsround, the BBC One bulletin aimed at the under 12s, I never ceased to be impressed by the throng of viewers wanting to help whenever we reported on famines, natural disasters or threats to wildlife. An old friend once told me, he discovered the real power of television one morning when he couldn’t find any socks and discovered his children had sent them to the Blue Peter Appeal!

But because children are so willing to absorb information and take action, a great responsibility falls on those informing them to be balanced, accurate and honest. And the eco-warriors of Provost Williams primary school in Ryton are getting exactly that kind of guidance, as part of the nationwide Green Flag scheme, run by Keep Britain Tidy.

It’s a solid format for improving the local environment.

Garden of reflection

The school’s eco-team (each class votes for two warriors) lined up to greet me recently when I arrived to congratulate them on their Green Flag award, and to officially open Katie’s Garden, a lovely wildlife haven they have created in the grounds in fond memory of a classmate who died earlier this year. Even the pouring rain couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm as they outlined some of their achievements.

“We remind children and adults how important it is to save energy – everyone is a monitor, checking that lights and computers are switched off,” said Alex, who was eight that day. Tom, a year older, added: “We recycle paper, cardboard, printer cartridges, telephones and clothes. Leftover fruit goes in the compost bin and on to our vegetable beds, while old water from our beakers is used in our garden.”

“Saving water is important,” stressed Olivia, who is six. “We have water detectives, who turn off taps, and we help children in other countries who don’t have much water by raising money.”

The eco-warriors, indeed the whole school, are especially proud of their new garden. “Every class helped weed, plant, water and dig,” said 11-year-old chairperson Daniel. “Now we use the garden to discover about nature, to draw in, to sing in or just to sit and reflect.”

Teacher Sheila Newton, who co-ordinates their efforts, told me: “The whole school worked to develop its eco-awareness and it’s helped us reduce costs in areas such as energy, water and waste disposal.”

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I spent a happy, enlightening afternoon with the eco-warriors of Ryton and came away thinking that if only everyone could be like them, our planet will be OK.