Monday, October 20, 2008
Dodmire Infants and Nursery School
Last week I had a valuable briefing on the progress being made in Darlington on the Eco School initiative. I also attended a conference in Newcastle on assessing how councils can respond to the climate change agenda generally, and to the question of adaptation in particular.
To deal with the last one first - the way in which councils and their partners are being assessed is changing via the new Local Area Agreement system (LAA). Rather than prescribe how each council is judged, councils have the opportunity to select the criteria which are particularly relevant to the communities they serve. Partners like the Fire or Health Authorities have input into this too. The result is a medley of indicators, and one of those selected by Darlington is N188, or Adapting to Climate Change.
This refers specifically to how councils respond to the realities of climate change (floods, higher temperatures and the like). It contrasts with mitigation, which is how we can alter our lifestyles to at least counter some of the damaging changes taking place in the environment.
Still with me? Well, the conference in Newcastle, organised by One North East was very much aimed at Town Hall professionals, but as a lead elected member I found the material very useful. Like many councils around the North East, a lot of work is taking place on this key issue on an unco-ordinated basis, but the challenge of N188 will be to bring all this work together into a coherent policy-driven approach.
The Eco Schools meeting at Dodmire Infants and Nursery School was just as illuminating, but at a completely different level. This is a Government initiative to enable every school to be a sustainable school by 2020 - as the website says, "Eco-Schools is an international award programme that guides schools on their sustainable journey, providing a framework to help embed these principles into the heart of school life."
So how is that being put into action? Well, 27 schools in Darlington have paper recycling facilities, for example. And schools across the Borough are at varying stages of progress in gaining the prestigious Green Flag award via the Eco Schools scheme, which symbolises excellence in the field of environmental activity.
At Dodmire Infants and Nursery, we had a presentation from the children themselves. They talked about saving energy and turning off electrical appliances, for example, or growing their own produce on the school's allotment. They've also forged links with a school in Sierra Leone. They could answer quite complex questions too, suggesting that the work had really taken root. It was an inspiring afternoon, and I'll be monitoring progress to see how we can enthuse all schools in Darlington to take up this great project.