Thanks to a monumental effort by the pupil-led Single-Use Plastics Free Alternatives (SUPA) Committee, Upton House School is proud to be the first school in Berkshire to receive official Plastic Free School Status accreditation by the national Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) organisation – and all within a remarkably short time.
Comprising a team of dedicated young pupils from years 4 to 6, who have worked tirelessly to achieve their aim of a plastics-free school environment, Upton’s SUPA Committee began as part of the school’s enrichment programme for more-able pupils whose research revealed the devastating effects of plastic in our environment. It has rapidly gathered pace as other pupils and members of staff have felt compelled to join the all-encompassing, highly charged campaign. Joining forces with the highly valued Plastic Free Windsor group has also been a tremendous boost to the children’s work in achieving SUP status.
Form 6 pupil Emily Nicholas of the SUPA Committee explains: “We began by forming an action plan to cut use of Single-Use Plastic in school. We’ve replaced plastic snack bags in the school kitchens with hessian nets and reusable boxes - saving an incredible 6,220 bags per year! We have pledged to remove one item of SUP a month which so far includes SUP water bottles, cartons and carrier bags. We’re aiming to reduce plastic use in pens and plastic wallets and are working with Plastic Free Windsor to set up a School’s Forum so we can encourage other schools to join us and share ideas. We’ve also written to the Education Secretary, Mr Hind, and the Environment Minister, Mr Gove and are presently writing to supermarkets and other local businesses to ask them to take action against SUP. We have brainstormed ideas, created posters and presentations, and held an assembly for parents and local visitors explaining the problems with plastic.”
“Next on our list is an information video for all to see, including other schools – as well as an information stall in Windsor town centre to inform people of the plastic problems in the World. The work is never-ending – every time we finish a project, we get more great ideas! We don’t mind… we feel we are making history!”
Upton’s SUPA Committee’s achievements come in direct response to SAS’s groundbreaking schools programme which aims to equip and empower young activists in Key Stages 1-3 to create positive and lasting environmental change as they free our living spaces from single-use plastic such as plastic drinks bottles, disposable coffee cups, excessive food packaging and cling film. In order to achieve Plastic Free Status, pupils must demonstrate and provide evidence that their school has achieved all five of SAS’s rigorous objectives. Emily van de Geer from SAS Education department commented: “Surfers Against Sewage are delighted that Upton House School have completed all of the objectives in our pupil-led programme to achieve Plastic Free Schools Status. A huge well done to everyone for all their hard work – power to the pupils!”
Mrs Min Ward, More Able Co-ordinator at Upton House School adds: “The Department for Education released a statement last December urging all schools to eliminate their use of single-use plastics by 2022. Our pupils decided they weren’t going to wait that long and set to work immediately, with the aim to make us all stop in our tracks and think! Their passion for this cause has been incredible from the start and academically is highly beneficial for our children.”
Mrs Rhian Thornton, Headmistress at Upton agrees. “This innovative campaign is the perfect example of the inspirational teaching at Upton where we encourage critical thinking, complex problem solving, co-ordination with others, negotiation and effective communication – all essential life skills we value so highly at Upton. To have reached our goal so quickly is an amazing testament to their hard work and dedication, and as always we are extremely proud of their efforts and achievements.”