Pupils from 11 primary schools in and around Marlow pledged to help the environment during the town’s first ever schools eco conference on 12th July. Supporting wildlife and recycling more waste emerged as students’ top priorities.
The conference was led by Kevin Ford, Headteacher at Great Marlow School and organised by a group of volunteers, coordinated by Phil Irving of Sustainable Marlow, Marlow Town Council’s environmental programme.
A host of local environment groups and experts created inspirational videos, which pupils watched as part of the conference. These included well-known naturalist, broadcaster and author, Steve Backshall, plus Chief Executive of the Environment Agency Sir James Bevan.
The aim of the inaugural conference was to inspire and motivate Marlow’s school children to work together to tackle local and global environmental challenges. The event marks just the start of an ongoing eco-programme across all Marlow’s schools. Initially planned to be in-person, the conference was made virtual for Covid safety reasons.
Before the conference, primary schools were invited to share their key issues and projects. These were collated into themes by students from Marlow’s secondary schools. Posters showing the themes were distributed to every primary school.
Classes or eco-teams drawn from every primary school then discussed what was important to them and agreed on their top priorities. Before their discussions, pupils from each school also watched a special 40-minute film featuring contributions by more than 10 Marlow environmental groups and experts, linked together by a student from Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School.
After choosing their top priorities, pupils and teachers from the primary schools took part in a Eurovision-style video call to report on their pledges. This revealed the top five eco-priorities Marlow’s primary schools as being:
- make a home for bees
- do more recycling
- create a wildlife garden
- become plastic-free
- build a nature corridor.
Individual schools pledged to work on lots of other projects, including: creating eco-teams, reducing food waste, doing more outdoor learning, using solar energy, making a vegetable patch, turning screens off, walking and cycling more, and encouraging fair trade.
Marlow resident Phil Irving, who leads schools projects for Sustainable Marlow, said: “It’s been an honour to work with such an enthusiastic group of schools, local groups and environmental experts, it’s been a true team effort. The actions that the schools have decided on this week will be taken forward into the next year and beyond, with the continuing support of local community groups. The conference is an important first step in what will be a long-term programme with local schools.”
Kevin Ford said: “Although we couldn’t hold the conference in person this year, as a local schools community we’re committed to doing more together. Small local actions can make a big difference and we can achieve great things by working as one on shared priorities that the children themselves have decided on. I look forward to exchanging ideas and supporting each other when the new school year starts in the Autumn.”
The event wouldn’t have been possible without the many hours of support from volunteers, experts and local groups. The Sustainable Marlow team would like to thank everyone who contributed, including:
Steve Backshall – explorer, naturalist, presenter and writer.
Sir James Bevan – Chief Executive of the Environment Agency
Transition Town Marlow
Marlow Energy Group
Marlow Town Council
The LunchBox Doctor – Jenny Tschiesche
FourState – Patrick Brown
Dave Hampton – the Carbon Coach
Harvey Green, Anne Irving and Rucha Potdukhe – Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School
Macey Larkin and Lily Williams – Great Marlow School
The participating schools: Burford School, Cadmore End CofE School, Danesfield School, Foxes Piece School, Frieth CEC Primary School, Holy Trinity CofE School, Lane End Primary School, Little Marlow CofE School, Spinfield School, St Peter’s Catholic Primary School and Marlow CofE Infant school.
Conference coordinating group: Dr Phil Irving, Jocelyn Towns (MTC), Nick Rowcliffe, Jane Hack, Trevor Farnfield, Sian Herschel and Katherine Joy (MTC).