Litter Pickers

Should children be made to pick up litter?

Of course they should. Litter blights our landscapes and we all have a responsibility to take care of the environment. As Eco-Schools says,

Litter is untidy and unsightly and can affect people’s view on the value and safety of an area.

Lord Robathan wants litter picking to be part and parcel of the National Curriculum and I am 100% behind him. This has nothing to do with being Tory, Labour or BusPass Elvis Party, litter is an issue that bothers us all. He wants Year 6 pupils to take the lead and do their bit.

I have visited loads of schools in the last 25 years and some stand out for all the wrong reasons. I’ve seen far too many schools (especially secondary schools) with a couldn’t care less attitude to litter in their school grounds. In some cases there has been no pride whatsoever with staff and pupils walking over the stuff and just accepting it as the norm. What does this say about the values of the school and the people leading it?

Litter around a school is a clear sign of little or no respect for the school environment and the community of people who learn there.

Beyond the school gates litter is pretty much everywhere.

I live In Nottingham which is a particularly dirty and neglected city. Take a drive around and you will see litter on every street – except for once when there was a Tory party conference and the Council decided to make a few streets look nice. Looks good for the cameras. Lord Robathan is welcome to visit – I suspect the state of the place would make him explode.

So yes, we should set aside time in a ‘crowded curriculum’ (a much-loved and abused phrase) for pupils to do a litter pick but why restrict this t just Year 6 pupils? Everyone should be litter picking.

Some schools of course do this already and make sure that their school grounds are spotless (and no this isn’t a caretaker doing it all). What Lord Robathan wants though is for pupils to litter pick beyond the schools gates.

Eco Schools already do this and there are excellent campaigns to get involved in such as the Litter Less campaign which aims to “affect long-term behaviour change among youth around the world.”


Image result for Litter Less campaign


The objectives of the Litter Less campaign are:

  • To raise awareness of the effect of litter and waste on the local environment and wider community by implementing Community Action Days
  • To increase student knowledge and practical skills in preventing and managing litter and waste
  • To improve students’ behaviour in preventing and managing litter and waste
  • To promote and improve the schools’ waste management treatment
  • To create good examples by uploading pictures and descriptions on the website
  • To collaborate with other schools in order to disseminate good examples

All schools should be doing this.

There is very little pride on show in many of our cities and very little collective responsibility to make a difference. We can blame the huge litter problem we face on budget cuts and slovenly councils but the problem of course starts with the irresponsible and selfish people who think it’s okay to litter in the first place.

So, yes, teaching children about the impact of litter on our communities and environment is essential so that they become responsible citizens that take pride in their world not abuse it and just accept it. This is part of ‘whole-child’ education not the fragmented child agenda.

Ask any astronaut what bothers them the most when they have come back from space and it’s litter and how we treat our planet. This unique planetary perspective tells us all we need to know – Earth is a paradise and we should be bending over backwards to protect it not pollute it.  A desire to protect the planet is common among those who have left it so let’s share that with children and help them realise what they can do to make a difference. We can do our bit locally to impact globally.

We should be striving to make our schools litter-free and that’s the easy part. There can be no excuses for litter around a school. The bigger challenge is making an impact in the community but every school should be doing something to put a dent in litter hot-spots and giving a place its pride back. Making a visible difference doesn’t take long and everyone can feel proud that they have done something worthwhile.

Litter duty should never be a punishment but a part of daily living for us all on the way to school, at school and going home.

Simple: make Eco Schools compulsory.


Eco-Schools is a global programme engaging millions of children across 64 different countries, making it the largest environmental schools programme in the world.

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