Causeway Chronicle


4 July 2024: 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 this week.

A two-day event at Stranmillis University College, 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.

Among the notable achievements for 2024, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council schools received 10 Green Flag Awards at Ballycastle Integrated Primary School, Bushmills Primary School, Kilrea Primary School, Magilligan Field Centre, Mill Strand Integrated Primary School, St Ciaran’s Primary School, St Columba’s Primary School, St Patrick’s & St Brigid’s Primary School, St Patrick’s Primary School and Termoncanice Primary School.

Daniel McAfee, Caretaker at Ballycastle Integrated Primary School, received the Eco-Teacher of the Year award whilst Radha McMahon from St Patrick’s Loughguille was awarded Eco-Pupil of the Year, with both awards sponsored by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE).

Radha was recognised for her dedication through active participation in Gardening and Eco club sessions, where she initiates innovative ideas for improving environmental practices, whilst Daniel has promoted eco-awareness and projects throughout the school.

St Aidan’s (Magilligan) was named Eco-School of the Year, sponsored by Nexus, earning the accolade for its outstanding work in biodiversity conservation, outdoor learning, and water management.

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.

“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 endeavor – it’s a wonderful addition to the teacher training experience.”

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Causeway Chronicle

Causeway Chronicle