Moorlands Eco-council help shape their future

Moorlands Junior School in Sale is part of the borough of Trafford and has 239 pupils aged 7 to 11. In 2017 the school was chosen to be a demonstration site for Business in the Community’s Water Taskforce Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) project in Greater Manchester. The project was a collaboration between businesses including Stantec, Arup, Marshalls and Costain; the water company, United Utilities; and local government and NGOs. The project aimed to identify the viability of creating an economic model that supports retrofitting of SuDS in Greater Manchester through recouping costs in development through savings in waste water charges. 

Following assessment of the school grounds, project partners Arup and Stantec drew up designs for five small rain gardens, a pathway and an area of permeable paving in the carpark. The area was designed to maximise the potential for learning for the children, using plants that attract wildlife and enhance the school grounds’ biodiversity and with space for outdoor lessons, as well as the use of the space as a waiting area for parents collecting children.

The team then presented their designs to the school’s Eco Council, representatives from every class in the school who champion the environment. The Eco Council had a session to learn about the water cycle and SuDS from the project team and worked with their teachers to feed into the design of the rain gardens. They asked that the rain gardens be planted in their house colours and use as many natural materials as possible. They wanted space that attracted wildlife and would provide the opportunity for outdoor learning. These inputs were fed back to the design team who incorporated them into the design and into their choice of materials. Both Arup and Stantec learnt how their SuDS scheme would be seen and used by the young people and what aspects of it were most important. This helped them reshape their designs and gain insight of SuDS schemes in an educational environment. 

The SuDS scheme allowed water that fell on the classroom roofs to be diverted into the rain gardens, rather than being taken into the waste water sewers via drainpipes. This process is visible to the school children as the water passes through shallow channels and cleverly routed pipes. The plants within the rain garden can survive well in wet conditions and help to hold onto water, releasing it back into the natural water cycle slowly.

As a demonstration site, the Eco Council are the projects primary advocates. Several groups have visited the school, including representatives from the EU funders and senior business leaders. The Eco Council have presented to these delegations, sharing their understanding of the project, their input to it and the benefits that they have seen from being part of the project. Their knowledge and pride in the project can be clearly seen, and they are particularly proud of creating a legacy for their school and their local community for future generations, and for being a pioneering school in adopting this approach to managing their school environment. The businesses who have visited have benefited both from seeing the demonstration site and from hearing from the young people. 

Moorlands are now making an annual saving of £1,475 on their waste water charges, having reduced the amount of water that flows into the waste water system. This money can be reinvested in the school, the children and their education. 

Alison Kelly, Head Teacher at Moorlands, said: “Being a part of the SuDS project has provided opportunities for our children to be part of something that will benefit their future, developing world. As a school, we have looked more closely at our environment, how we use it and how we can preserve it for the future. As a school, we gain financially, in our emotional well-being and it is a huge boost to the local ecosystem.”