Wellesley Haddon Dene becomes Thanet’s first official Plastic Free School and pupils open eco shop

Broadstairs and St Peter's Mayor Cllr Mike Garner opens the pupils' eco shop

Wellesley Haddon Dene has just become the first official Plastic Free School in Thanet.

As well as completing five challenging objectives to make lasting, positive changes in their community, they also opened up a pupil-led Eco Refill Shop – giving the whole school a chance to reduce their plastic waste.

These young Ocean Activists led a campaign to clean up their school eliminating three plastic items permanently from usage to protect the ocean from further pollution. They also challenged some of the big companies (Bic, Burton’s and Nestle) which manufacture products known to contribute to plastic pollution.  In addition, they wrote letters to Craig Mackinlay while he was South Thanet MP, asking him to take action on the issue.

Plastic Free Schools is a change-making education programme by the marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage, which teaches young people the value of their voice in the fight against single-use plastic. Wellesley Haddon Dene is one of some 3,000 schools and nurseries across the UK joining the programme to take action.

The school’s Eco Warriors and Wild Club launched their Plastic Free Action Group 10 months ago and pupils have been working tirelessly to turn the tide and make their school plastic free.

Since then, they have set up a business enterprise aimed at selling eco products.  The new established business called ‘Top Up Shop’ is available for parents to buy a range of household detergents and toiletries.  The school was guided by a PHSE resource called ‘Pupils Profit’, a teaching scheme sponsored by Sea Changers Marine Conservation Charity.

During the business development phase, the children had to apply for the various jobs and be interviewed before starting as employees.  They then had to design the company logo, conduct market research and establish a price list before creating a marketing campaign.  Through the process, the children developed a variety of operational and interpersonal skills which will help them with their future careers.

Top Up Shop opened for business on Friday 24th May, when the ribbon was cut by the Mayor of Broadstairs, Councillor Mike Garner, from Thanet Green Party.

He said: “The whole school community of pupils, staff and parents have worked hard on several different environmental projects recently, including gaining plastic free status, and it was a real pleasure to be asked to open the new refill shop.

“I was especially impressed, when speaking to the pupils involved, at their enthusiasm to reduce the amount of plastic we use as a society and at their determination to make the shop a success. I’m looking forward to visiting the shop again soon to see how well they’re doing.”

The grand opening was a great success, with parents queuing to get their refills of hand soap, body wash, washing up liquids and many more household detergents. They sold out of the most popular items. The pupils also sold homemade elderflower cordial from plants on the school grounds and tomato plants grown by the school Wild Club. They will be using the money they earn to purchase a hedgehog house and new recycling bins for the school grounds. The pupils plan to open the shop to parents on a regular basis.

The school has also been awarded a silver Wilder Kent Award from Kent Wildlife Trust and won two Green School Awards last year.

Head Teacher Joanne Parpworth said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to watch our children take on the mantle of creating real and sustainable change in our school community and further afield.

“They have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of environmental issues and have developed an action plan to make a positive impact on climate change.

“I have been extremely impressed with the level of entrepreneurialism and commerciality displayed by the students during the development of their business.  They have already generated a revenue of over £250 in their first period of sales. This valuable cash will be injected into further eco projects.

“ I want to thank Mrs Sabin-Dawson for inspiring our students and for her unwavering commitment to empowering our students to make a difference.”