Last week The Marches School took part in an Eco and Democracy week. A wide variety of exciting activities and lessons took place, with the aim to develop the students’ knowledge and debating skills around the issue of single-use plastics.

Monday got off to a great start, with students learning about the problems of plastic, before investigating some of the many reasons why single-use plastic is so controversial. In Humanities, students also learnt about the democratic processes and how a bill is passed through parliament and becomes law. Drawing these two topics together, students saw how effective the law to ban free single-use plastic bags has been in the UK and considered how they themselves might be able to take real action to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in school. They all also enjoyed taking part in meat-free Monday in the restaurant at lunchtime.

Tuesday started with students calculating their plastic footprint, with many being quite shocked by their scores. As a result of this, the students thought about how they could reduce the amount of single-use plastic they used and all made a plastic pledge. In the Art Department, students had the opportunity to discuss environmental concerns and learnt about the role of Art in conveying messages and each student made a drawing to be displayed and together created a bottle top mural.

On Thursday, an assembly was held where 1450 students listened to guest speaker Mr Thoby Miller, founder of Honeysuckle in Oswestry, an organic wholefood store and Wrexham Glyndwr lecturer of 25 years. He spoke passionately about two concepts: Hidden Connections and Eco-Literacy, speaking to students about their ability to make change happen. Sixth Form students were then addressed by Mr John Vidal, who spoke about their responsibility to inform themselves to make change and to remember that it needs to be a worldwide change. The students then had chance to democratically vote, to see if the sale of single-use plastic bottles should be banned at The Marches School.  Students could vote ‘yes, no alternative’, ‘yes, with water fountain alternatives’ or ‘no ban’.

After adding up the votes, Friday morning saw the result announced live on BBC Radio Shropshire. The result was 71% in favour and so Headteacher Mrs Pearson will now work with a group of Year 7 students to decide the way forward that does not simply substitute plastic. Throughout the day students and valued members of the community also worked on constructing an arch made up of single use plastic bottles. The project illustrated the sheer quantity of plastic bottle waste accrued over only a few days in school. Each bottle was labelled with hopes, wishes and pledges for the future.

Miss Richards, Head of RE and key organiser of the Eco and Democracy week commented: “It is really clear that we have to make a change to our negative impact on the environment and act now! We are so pleased the students have decided to make a positive change for the future and ban the use of single-use plastic at The Marches School. I would like to thank all our guest speakers and volunteers from the local community who gave up their time to talk to our students about this important topic”

The week was truly inspiring, encouraging the students to think for themselves and realise that their personal actions are significant, whilst increasing their environmental awareness. The Marches School has recently started to take steps to improve its impact on the environment, some of these changes include: the move from polystyrene food trays to cardboard and moving away from plastic throwaway cutlery to wooden. Plans are in place for the installation of more water fountains around the school. The Marches has also seen a significant reduction in paper use and will continue to make further improvements going forwards.