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Can a greener school boost children's progress?

Schools regularly hold assemblies to raise awareness of global environmental issues and plan lessons designed to teach children how we can all live greener lives.

I have read some wonderful stories in the media about schools that have involved their pupils in a local tree planting scheme or turned an unused patch in the playground into an impressive vegetable garden. These are great ways for schools to allow children to benefit from a rounded education while encouraging them to become more socially conscious as they get older.

But can going to a greener school have a positive impact on the progress children make in their learning? And if so, how?

Encouraging an eco-friendly approach

In one school I know, the journey to becoming more eco-friendly has had its challenges but the rewards have sometimes been quite unexpected.

Located in the Middle East, the school found that most parents did not consider going greener to be a high priority to start with. But a key part of the initiative has been to move the school away from communicating on paper and introduce electronic communications for parents. The benefits of this have resulted in many families embracing their school's greener credentials.

What started as an eco-project at the school has had a significantly wider impact on school life. Could your child's school benefit from introducing electronic communication and exploring some of the other ideas for doing things in a more eco-friendly way? Here are just a few.

1. More frequent updates on progress

Many parents will be familiar with waiting for a paper pupil report to land on the doormat or digging around in their child's bag to find it. These reports often require staff to spend hours of time putting them together and can generate a heavy price tag in terms of paper, printing and postage costs. In addition to this, an annual or termly report will only provide a snapshot of a child's behaviour and achievement at the time it is produced.

More and more schools are introducing electronic options of publishing real-time information on their pupils' attendance, behaviour and achievement for families. Using tools such as an online parent portal, SMS text messaging and email offer efficient and cost-effective ways to keep parents up to date - from their child's latest test scores to important school announcements. And the paperless route is much more eco-friendly too.

2. More engaged pupils

There are online options that schools can introduce for managing homework tasks too. Rather than teachers handing out paper sheets to pupils that can get crumpled up or lost, many schools have opted for an online homework diary that both pupils and parents can log into.

Schools that have introduced a digital option for homework often report that the children are more engaged in the task they have been asked to complete, which has a positive impact on the quality of work they produce. The added bonus is that parents can see what assignments have been set and what resources are needed to complete them so they can provide support from home.

3. Encouraging the positive

Imagine how wonderful it would be to get a positive message from school via text message or email when your child came top in a maths test, earned a house point for their violin playing or helped another child who had fallen down in the playground.

Lots of schools now record information such as house points pupils have earned or examples of good behaviour on their computer systems. This allows them to be shared easily, with individual pupils, the whole school and with parents. This can be a very powerful way to motivate children to focus on improving their conduct in and around the classroom.

Spreading the word

Could your child's school reap some of the rewards the school in the Middle East has seen since it launched its quest to become greener? Key to the success of the scheme has been to get parents on board so we all have a part to play in encouraging schools to be more eco-friendly.

Introducing new ways of doing things requires the commitment of the whole school community. That way parents, pupils and staff will come to appreciate the true benefits of becoming a greener school.