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Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon schools shine with 18 Green Flags as Eco-Schools marks 30th anniversary

St Anthony’s Primary School was named Eco-School of the Year, sponsored by Nexus, earning the accolade for its focus on biodiversity and eco-friendly initiatives, including an outdoor sensory mobile with nesting boxes and cameras

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Eco-Schools Winners

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council schools have received 18 Green Flag Awards for their environmental contribution as part of the Eco-Schools programme.

The Eco-Schools programme, a renowned global initiative led by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) that aims to create environmental awareness and action, celebrated its 30th anniversary in Northern Ireland.

The two-day event, supported by RiverRidge and Translink, brought together over 500 attendees, including teachers and pupils, to honour the outstanding achievements in environmental stewardship and sustainable practices by schools across the region.

Established in 1994 to involve young people in finding solutions to environmental and sustainable development challenges, the programme is operated locally by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and supported by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), local authorities and a range of other partners.

Northern Ireland’s record of success in the programme over the last three decades is significant. The Green Flag, an international accreditation for the environmental education and performance of schools, has been awarded to 2253 schools across the region to date. Northern Ireland was also the first in the world to award a Green Flag to one of its schools – Downpatrick Nursery in 1994.

St Anthony’s Primary School awarded Eco-School of the Year, supported by Nexus

Among the notable achievements for 2024, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council schools received 18 Green Flag Awards at Ballyoran Primary School, Banbridge Academy, Carrick Primary School, Dromore Central Primary School, Fair Hill Primary School, Gilford Primary School, Hardy Memorial Primary School, Lisanally Special School, Lismore Comprehensive, Markethill Primary School, Orchard County Primary School, Our Lady’s & St Mochua’s Primary School, St Anthony’s Primary School, St Brendan’s Primary School, St Brendan’s Primary School, St Catherine’s College, St John the Baptist Nursery, St John the Baptist Nursey, St John the Baptist College and St Mary’s Primary School.

Pupils who participated in the Young Reporters from the Environment (YRE), an international network of passionate young people producing creative environmental journalism, were also recognized. This year, the YRE National Prize was awarded to Olivia de la Torre, Jorja McCabe, and Hannah Kerr from Banbridge Academy for their outstanding article, “The (real) Lough Neagh Monster: Water Pollution.”

Jonathan Henry, Eco-Coordinator at Carrick Primary School received the Eco-Teacher of the Year whilst Cian Connolly from Lismore Comprehensive was awarded the Eco-Pupil of the Year, with both awards sponsored by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). Cian, a leading member of his schools’ Eco-Committee for three years, was recognised for his commitment to sustainability, whilst Jonathan was recognised for his efforts in reducing waste, planting trees, and promoting energy efficiency.

St Anthony’s Primary School was named Eco-School of the Year, sponsored by Nexus, earning the accolade for its focus on biodiversity and eco-friendly initiatives, including an outdoor sensory mobile with nesting boxes and cameras.

Carol Forster, Head of Business Development at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, praised the commitment of schools across Northern Ireland. She said, “Our journey over the past 30 years has been remarkable. I commend our schools across Northern Ireland for their steadfast commitment in inspiring young people to care for the world around them. We’ve seen countless young people grow into environmentally conscious citizens, equipped with the knowledge and passion to make a difference.

Teacher of the Year Jonathan Henry, Carrick P.S. Supported by NIHE

“The Eco-Schools programme aligns with our wider organisational vision. We believe that through education, engagement and empowerment, we can change behaviours so that everyone can enjoy a beautiful, resilient, and healthy environment.

“This event not only serves as a platform to celebrate our continued achievements, but also as an urgent reminder on how important it is to continue to inspire and invest in our youth to ensure that future generations actively participate in environmental stewardship. We’re grateful to all our partners for their continued support and strongly encourage more schools to join the programme and give every child in Northern Ireland the opportunity to get involved.”

A highlight of the event was the launch of Generation Nature – a new outdoor learning demonstration site at Stranmillis University College. This project, supported by Energia’s Greener Possibilities Fund, will provide trainee teachers with hands-on experience and practical skills to further the success of the Eco-Schools programme.

Dr David McKee at Stranmillis University College said, “It’s essential we continue to integrate environmental education into teacher training in Northern Ireland, to ensure that new teachers are equipped with the tools and the knowledge needed to strengthen our collective performance in Eco-Schools. Generation Nature will play an essential role in this endeavour – it’s a wonderful addition to the teacher training experience.”

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