Young Journalist – Keeping Northern Ireland Beautiful

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My name is David Eagleson, I am a year 3 pupil at Rainey Endowed School, Magherafelt and in October this year I entered a competition, run by the Alpha Newspaper Group, Keep Northern Ireland beautiful and Eco-Schools, to be a Young Journalist for the Environment.


My assignment was to report on the Eco-Schools National Operators Meeting (NOM) which is held annually and held this year for the first time in Northern Ireland. To enter I had to write an article about why I should be chosen. As I was on holiday I decided to give it a go! Two weeks later I was surprised and delighted to discover I had been chosen from the numerous entries from all over Northern Ireland! This is how I have reached the stage of writing this report for the Tyrone Courier and Alpha Newspaper Group.

n Friday 13th November 2015 I eagerly departed from my home in Cookstown for the annual Eco-Schools NOM. These NOMS are seen as the ‘highlight’ of the Eco- Schools programme and at this one the theme was to be ‘Eco-Schools – Making a Difference’. I was given a briefing of what was to take place that day. This Conference would be attended by delegates from the Foundation for Environmental Education’s (FEE’s) member countries around the world. This Conference brings together the National Operators from the Eco-School countries worldwide with FEE to share updates, discuss the development of the Eco-School programme internationally and to share good practice for the ongoing development of the programme.


The Conference began with some words of welcome from Dr Ian Humphreys, (Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful), who welcomed all of the delegates who came from a wide variety of countries worldwide including Iceland, USA, Russia, Czech Republic and Australia. Dr Humphreys then introduced our Environment Minister Mr Mark H. Durkan MLA to the podium to deliver his speech.


Mr Durkan spoke of how glad he was to see so many people in attendance at the conference all of whom wished to pass on their knowledge to the future generations. He said that it was, “commendable that not only are you (the delegates) confronting these challenges with real, positive action but also that the younger generation is leading by example.” Mr Durkan is obviously very proud of supporting the Eco-Schools programme and environmental education in general, saying, “I am proud to call myself an enthusiastic Eco- Schools advocate.” Throughout his speech Mr Durkan made jokes which really helped to break the ice!


Dr Ian Humphreys again took to the podium to thank everyone for their support of the Eco-Schools programme and to highlight his point that we can achieve anything together. He emphasised how fortunate we are in Northern Ireland to have a government which fully endorses the Eco-Schools programme and offers its support to ensure its success. This was highly evident through the conference with representation of our local government by Mr Mark H. Durkan, the Minister for the Environment and Ms Angelina Fusco, from Tourism NI.


I spoke to Angelina Fusco briefly before the conference and she chatted to me about her career as an editor at BBC Newsline, in Northern Ireland. She spoke of her passion for journalism and promoting Northern Ireland which led to her joining Tourism NI after leaving the BBC. She also expressed her passion for Eco-Schools which she believes to be a well worthwhile programme.


Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful then spoke of how environmental education had developed since he was young.


onveyed how Eco-Schools had gone from, “Strength to strength.” He expressed how important it was that Eco- Schools kept up their work. Dr Humphries encouraged delegates with his words, “YOU are mobilising a generation – preparing them for the difficult times ahead – this is the reality we work with.” It was an excellent fact driven speech which, I’m sure, has inspired many!


Daniel Schaffer, (CEO, Foundation for Environmental Education), then concluded the conference opening by delivering the Overall Developments FEE & Board Report. He reported that Eco-Schools has seventy-five countries involved worldwide because people are discovering that it is, “the right thing to do.” He stated that Young Reporters for the Environment now includes, “Twenty- eight countries with seventy-three thousand students!” After the opening the conference took a break. I used this opportunity to chat to various delegates from around the world and gather their views on why it is important for not just school children but everyone to think about the future of our environment and to find out what issues are most important to them. I have included just a few to give you a flavour of the varied opinions of delegates.


That afternoon there was quite a buzz in the air as we were about to visit local ambassador Eco-Schools hosting visits from the delegates. The school which I visited, along with many delegates, was Lagan College in Castlereagh. It is a very active school and has achieved their forth Green Flag. We were warmly welcomed by staff and students and were given an enjoyable and very informative presentation.


I really enjoyed my day as a Young Reporter for the Environment. I learned much from speaking with the delegates from the various organisations represented. I returned to The Rainey with renewed enthusiasm to encourage more of my fellow pupils to join Eco- Club and continue the good work carried out by previous Rainey pupils. I hope to inform more people about the goals which we have achieved.


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