Year nine girls from Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School launched a bid to be Tower Hamlets’ first official Fairtrade school after joining forces with local charity Otesha.
The new status will mean pupils will wear sweatshop-free uniforms and use Fairtrade sports equipment in PE lessons.
They will also have ethically-sourced food in lunches and vending machines, and learn about Fairtrade issues in class.
The bid came about in March 2010 when a group of year nine girls surveyed other students and staff about their knowledge of Fairtrade and the barriers that might prevent people from buying those specific goods.
They approached representatives from Otesha’s ‘Change Projects’ programme, which works with young people to help give workers in poorer countries a better deal for the products they grow and sell, and which are used every day by the UK.
Following their efforts with the charity, in 2011 they were shortlisted for the Shelia McKechnie Shout Out Award for young campaigners and invited to the awards ceremony where they met Channel 4 News presenter, Jon Snow.
They took part in workshops to aid their understanding of how Fairtrade impacts on producers, and won a bursary.
Edd Bell, Otesha’s Change Projects Co-ordinator said: “This is a huge achievement by these students. We’re so proud of them, and we’d really like to help other London schools go down this path, too.”
Spurred on by their success with the charity, the pupils designed, planned and presented a proposal for a school-wide Fairtrade policy at a meeting arranged with the governors and head teacher, who gave a resounding thumbs up to the bid.
Rhiannon Scutt, in-house Sustainable Development Coordinator said: “Empowering the students like this is definitely the way forward as it is the students who want to lead this change.
“The enthusiasm of the girls to help the school achieve Fairtrade status is infectious. They have so many good ideas and are willing to give up their own time.”
Following their successful pitch to the board of governors, a Fairtrade Action Group was formed, and plans are currently underway for a series of events to raise funding to implement the changes and awareness amongst the local community.
There will also be a stall at the forthcoming parents’ evening, where they will be served Fairtrade refreshments and be invited to help out with the project.
Caitlin, Bishop Challoner pupil, said: “I think Fairtrade is important because it helps people have a better life by being paid correctly for the work they do.”
Fellow student, Ellie, added: “Working on Fairtrade is such an eye-opener. It has shown me how to help the world, which is what I really want.”