Children lead the way on reducing plastic waste

July 04, 2019

An East Riding primary school which scooped a national award for inspiring its pupils to make science fun is now working with other schools to spearhead projects to reduce plastic waste.

 Hilderthorpe Primary School in Bridlington won UK primary school of the year at last year’s national finals of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Enthuse Celebration Awards.

Now the school has become one of two national STEM hubs, recently hosting the first child-led STEM Challenge in the north. Pupils were joined by four other local primary schools to talk about how their schools have tried to reduce plastic pollution.

The project started when the school won the national award and its science leaders Gail Pugh and Molly Fletcher were invited by the organiser of a similar child-led hub in the south of England to set up a summit for the north.

At an initial meeting, the children discussed a variety of environmental issues and listened to speakers about plastic in the ocean, the decline in bee populations and other issues relating to wildlife. They then linked up with the southern summit via Skype and voted on the issue they wished to address.

Pupils voted unanimously to focus on reducing plastic waste to protect the oceans and sea creatures. Since then, each school worked on a number of projects to cut plastic waste, including writing letters to supermarkets and other large companies, carrying out beach cleans and reducing the plastic in their lunchboxes. They also carried out a STEM challenge to design and make a bird that could fly across a ‘sea’ cluttered with plastic and still collect fish.

Judges were invited from the Living Seas Centre, STEM learning and Bridlington High School to award schools with trophies and certificates for their efforts. Hilderthorpe Primary School won the award for ‘school which had made the most impact’, Brandesburton Primary School won the ‘most creatively designed bird’, Burlington Junior School’s bird collected the most fish, and Flamborough Primary School won the best designed fish.

It is now planned to hold a second child-led summit at the end of the autumn term, and other schools are being invited to get involved.

Hilderthorpe Primary School headteacher Kath Carlisle said: “The children were really engaged in this subject and have made a really positive impact within the local community. We are hoping to inspire other schools to engage in our summits to encourage the children to drive changes in their local environments.”

Councillor Julie Abraham, East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s portfolio holder for children, young people and education, said: “This is a fantastic project that has inspired children in the STEM subjects by looking at one of modern day’s most pressing issues. It has encouraged collaboration and negotiation and given the children valuable life skills.

“Well done to all the schools that took part, but particularly to the children of Hilderthorpe for their success.”

Other schools which would like to become involved in the next child-led summit can contact Gail Pugh or Molly Fletcher at Hilderthorpe Primary School, tel 01262 672475 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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