Crumbling school flying the flag for environment

A CRUMBLING 1960s high school deemed to be in the worst condition in Edinburgh has been named Scotland's greenest school.

Portobello High has been awarded its fourth Eco Schools Green Flag, meaning it has become the first secondary school in Scotland to achieve permanent Green Flag status.

The school is currently based in a dilapidated, eight-storey building, with practically no green space, ageing facilities and lack of sports areas for children's PE lessons.

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Despite this, the school has racked up an impressive list of green credentials.

Headteacher Peigi Macarthur said being an eco-friendly school, was not about the building, but the ethos.

She said: "There's nothing about the building that impacts on eco school stuff, it's all about education.

"I think it's important that we educate youngsters on sustainability issues in order to prepare them for the future.

"Eco schools work offers so many rich learning opportunities in terms of respecting the environment and saving the world in the long term.

"One of the things we have is a school allotment that the youngsters and staff tend and grow produce and we use that in the home economics department.

"It usually take a couple of years to work towards an award, especially in a school this size. We have been working on it for over eight years now and being awarded permanent Green Flag status as an eco school shows they understand it's embedded in the work of the school."

Portobello High will be rebuilt by 2013 after being rated the school in the worst condition in the Capital.

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Ms Macarthur envisages a building which will be in complete contrast to the current 1960s tower block, and says pupils and staff will be using their eco school lessons to help design the new school.

She said: "One of the interesting things is working towards the new school and looking at making it as environmentally friendly as possible.

"We hope to have grass roofs and we hope to have wind turbines on the roof. It's going to be really exciting.

"We have also asked for an allotment on the new site."

The school has been working on a series of green initiatives over the years to receive the latest accolade, including projects on saving energy, waste, litter, environment, health and wellbeing. The topics have been integrated into the school curriculum, for example using craft, design and technology lessons to build a fence, made from recycled material, round the biodiversity garden, which houses various wildlife, including bees, butterflies, ladybirds and frogs.

The school has also created a bike cage which can hold more than 50 bikes to encourage staff and pupils to cycle to school.

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said: "We are committed to putting environmental and global issues at the centre of what we do in Edinburgh.

"This is a major achievement for Portobello High and a great example of some of the positive work taking place in city's schools."