Kathryn, our Managing Director, recently became a volunteer for Eco-schools England as an Eco-assessor. The role of an Eco Schools Assessor is to visit local schools and help to assess if the school has met the criteria to be awarded a Green Flag for their efforts to become increasingly Eco-friendly. Currently, there are over 18,000 schools registered with Eco-Schools England, with 1,042 having gained the top "Green Flag" award. Eco-Schools describes their Green Flag programme as "a framework for learning and action around nine topics - biodiversity, energy, litter, global citizenship, healthy living, school grounds, transport, waste and water. It follows a very simple seven-step process to lead schools on their journey to achieving a Green Flag Award." We spoke to Kathryn to ask about the role of an Eco Assessor, how her first Eco-assessor visit went and how others can become a volunteer for Eco-Schools as an Eco-assessor. 1. This was your first Eco-assessment, how did it go? I was quite nervous as it was a school that had many successful Green Flags under their belt and so I thought they might be testing me! But the whole experience was very positive. From the lead member of staff who made me feel very welcome and all teachers throughout the school, along with the very enthusiastic students, there was a real sense of pride in what they have achieved. 2. Was there anything that stood out as the school you visited going to extra mile to become an Eco-school? The Eco-school that I visited was in a very deprived inner city area, with many challenges to deal with. It was fantastic to see how the whole ethos of the school encouraged engagement with issues that could help both pupils and their families in everyday life whilst also tackling some of the global issues that we face at the same time. I was really impressed with all the recycling, energy and litter management activities in the school. However, the best thing was a raised bed allotment right next to one of the busiest roads in the city, which a local resident had given up time to build with the deputy head. Every class in the school was able to spend some time each week helping with the planting, learning about biodiversity and then passing the produce on to family as part of a healthy eating initiative. It was brilliant to see the variety of topics that could be covered as well as the number of different people within the school and community who could benefit. 3. Were both the school's teachers and pupils as committed and enthusiastic as one another? I met with several members of staff and pupil representatives of the Eco Committee and School Council and everyone was really excited to talk and share what they had worked on. 4. What are your top tips for any school that wants to become an Eco-school? "Get started" would be my main tip. The Eco-schools website is a great source to guide schools who are new to the programme. Lots of aspects of the award will no doubt already be taking place within a school new to it but the framework means this can be built on and embed a real depth of engagement with environmental issues. 5. Did you pick up an Eco tips that you could put into practice at home or at work? I loved that some members of the Eco Committee had been dubbed "the Eco Police" for their naming and shaming of classes who had not taken responsibility for litter or recycling. They managed to make it humorous whilst also getting across very important messages. 6. Since plastic waste has become a huge topic in the media, have you seen a rise in schools and pupils wanting to do something to tackle the problem? It's fantastic how the recent media interest has inspired so many young people to get more involved. It's also very encouraging to see that the small changes can lead to the big changes. Young people are becoming so much more aware of environmental issues and taking practical steps to do their bit - it's inspiring to see. 7. Would you recommend becoming an Eco-assessor to others? If so, what is the process to becoming an Eco-assessor? I would definitely recommend becoming an Eco-assessor! To visit schools where some of the scientists and naturalists of tomorrow are cultivating their passion is great to be a part of. Eco Schools make the assessment process accessible. They have a section on their website here for anyone interested in becoming an assessor.