West Buckland win prestigious UNESCO North Devon Biosphere award for 2021

West Buckland School have won the 2021 UNESCO North Devon Biosphere ‘Pledge for Nature’ award following their dedicated work to increasing awareness of ecology and sustainability at school.

West Buckland win prestigious UNESCO North Devon Biosphere award for 2021
West Buckland School planted over 500 trees on the campus (Photo: West Buckland School)

West Buckland School WEBS (West Buckland Ecology and Biodiversity) group, have won the 2021 UNESCO North Devon Biosphere ‘Pledge for Nature’ award for their work developing wildflower meadows and planting over 500 trees in the past two years.

The Pledge for Nature, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund aims to help nature’s recovery across the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere.

The group, made up of Sixth Formers, and under the watchful eye of Head of Biology, Noah Shawcross, try and encourage great biodiversity on the school’s 90-acre campus and – at the same time – educate other students about the need to protect the environment.

This year the school, based close to Exmoor National Park in North Devon, created its first ever Environmental Prefects who help lead the school’s work on biodiversity and sustainability.

Headmaster Phillip Stapleton said: "Since its inception, WEBS has seen perceptions and behaviours change in school, as well as in the biodiversity on the campus.

"Single use plastic has been virtually eradicated onsite, the school café now sells healthier food with less plastic and the school has positioned more recycling bins around the campus to encourage students to actively recycle.

"Members of WEBS have held meetings with the Bursar, SLT and governors on a number of occasions to see where the school could reduce greenhouse gases and a second biomass boiler is currently being installed, meaning that virtually all the school's heating is now from this source."

To kick off their initiative they asked the school’s Artist in Residence, Joseph Witchall, to design a logo, before presenting their objectives to the Senior Leadership Team and Governors.

These included improving the biodiversity of the school campus; reducing food and packaging waste; reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the school and surveying the pupils to find out their attitudes to waste and sustainable food as well as leading assemblies to encouraging a more caring approach to our environment.

In consultation with the school's Head Groundsman, Baz Norden, two wildflower meadows were developed by the group, who enlisted the help of students from the prep school up to Year 9 to bring on the wildflowers from seed in their classrooms.

Over the past two years, 500 new trees have been planted and all age groups within the school have been involved.

The trees were kindly donated by the Woodland Trust and are part of the Queen’s Green Canopy which marks the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The award from the UNESCO North Devon Biosphere ‘Pledge for Nature’ is a fantastic way for the WEBS team to be recognised for all their hard work and provides a fitting legacy when they leave the school and hand the baton over to the next members of WEBS.