EDUCATION starts in the garden at an East Lancashire high school, which has been short-listed as one of the top three environmental schools in the country.

Pupils and staff from Accrington’s St Christopher’s CE High School will attend an awards ceremony in London next month to find out if they have won the prestigious national sustainable schools award.

An in-house eco group has been established at the Queen’s Road West school for five years and co-ordinator Wendy Litherland said the children learnt a lot from growing, harvesting and selling what they produced.

She said: “The kids are the ones that run the project and their enthusiasm makes me drive it forward.

“We use the polytunnel in science, geography, PHSE and special needs lessons and it gives the children employability skills.

“So far, a lot of them have gone onto jobs in agriculture.

“The pupils run this and finance it themselves, so it really does help.”

For the past three years St Christopher’s has held an annual summer eco fair, which led to the establishment of the Hyndburn and Ribble Eco Cluster Group.

The group shares ideas and resources and Mrs Litherland said some schools in Burnley had also been able to become ‘greener’ thanks to support from the team.

Among the produce the students grow on site are strawberries, cabbages, tomatoes and herbs.

There is a polytunnel to create a good growing atmosphere and space outside for more hardy plants.

The sixth form building also runs on 40 per cent renewable energy.

Year 10 pupil Jack Pickup, 14, said he hoped the skills he learned tending to the produce before and after school and at weekends would help him with a career in agriculture.

He said: “I am a farmer’s son so I really think this could help me in the future.”

Courtney Talbot, 15, also in year 10, was part of the original ‘pledge for veg’ team.

She said: “I got involved when I was in year seven and I just loved doing it so I kept on.”

Representatives from the school will be in London from July 3 to see if they are the top environmental school in the country.

Mrs Litherland said: “This is real life and so it is nice to be recognised. National recognition for what the children do locally is great.

“It helps them realise that the small things we do are making a difference not just to the school, but to the country.

“People are coming to us now to ask for our opinions and so our voice is being heard.”