Beyond COP21 Symposium as a Strategy for Promoting Change

Beyond COP21 Symposium as a Strategy for Promoting Change

This guest blog is from Peter Milne, Founder/Director of Target 4 Green and Sustainable Schools Alliance member.

You can read the full article published in the International Teacher Magazine

Peter Milne shares a  full overview of a Beyond COP21 Symposium here.

Strategy for promoting change

The basic aim of ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ is to nurture an individual who is able to solve environmental challenges facing the world and promote the formation of a sustainable society.

The change needed to implement ESD effectively can be broken down into three elements:

  1. The need for physical change: looking at how schools, households and businesses can reduce their waste, water and energy and focus on more sustainable resources in general.
  2. The mindset change: this is all about raising environmental understanding, awareness and action programmes throughout the school and business communities through workshops, cross-curricular activities and presentations, so that everybody is on the ‘same page’, as well as giving students and employees a voice. This leads to a fundamental change in attitudes and the choices people make.
  3. Learning to respect others and appreciate the environment, as well as giving back to society: this is focused around the opportunities to learn beyond the workplace and home, and connect to nature, as well as helping communities in need. In a nutshell, it about being more caring.

Partnerships and action-orientated behaviour, within all three aspects, are crucially important to their success. Environmental awareness in itself is not enough because awareness without meaningful action and behaviour change goes nowhere. This approach can be illustrated in the Beyond COP21 Symposium series, currently running globally with the support of Eco-Schools Global and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots. (“COP 21” refers to the 2015 Paris Summit at which a number of crucial climate action targets were agreed)

A symposium consists of themed high impact presentations from, and discussions with, guest speakers on the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) Agenda 2030 and climate negotiations in and beyond the Paris It also involves individual & community action, pledge-making and practical activities/workshops. Local sustainable companies and organisations are invited to showcase their initiatives and engage with students from a variety of schools, both local and expat, in each city or region.

Successfully run in Dubai twice, in the UK once and most recently in Jordan, at the Ahliyyah School for Girls, a 2018 event, to be held at the Tanglin Trust School in Singapore, is now in preparation. Further interest has also come from schools in Malaysia, Laos, Sri Lanka, UAE and Jordan.

Read the full article published in the International Teacher Magazine here.


Modeshift STARS Awards

Modeshift STARS Awards

It is a pleasure to be providing this week’s Sustainable Schools Alliance blog post. As a national membership organisation ourselves, Modeshift exists to share best practice in promotion and delivery of sustainable travel. We do this through a number of mechanisms but at the forefront of our delivery is the Modeshift STARS scheme.

Modeshift STARS is the national* schools awards scheme that has been established to recognise schools that have demonstrated excellence in supporting cycling, walking and other forms of sustainable travel. The scheme works with schools and local authorities throughout the country and the great news is it is FREE for schools to use.

The scheme was launched nationwide in September 2012 and was created to support the development of School Travel Plans and reward schools over three levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold) for achieving a shift to sustainable modes of travel. STARS received the backing of the Department for Transport in November 2014 and is now recognised as the National School Travel Awards with 64 local authorities and almost 2,800 schools currently participating in the scheme.

At Modeshift we are very fortunate in that we get to see the unique and creative ways that schools are embedding a culture of sustainable travel across the school community. The benefits of which range far and wide including improvements in physical activity levels, boosting local air quality, reducing congestion, enhancing road safety, and contributing to improved health and social wellbeing for pupils, parents, staff and the wider community.

The highlight of our year is the National STARS School Travel Awards where we get to see the very best of our STARS schools come together to share their experiences and best practice. Our seven STARS Schools of the Region came together at the Houses of Parliament for the 2017 National Modeshift STARS School Travel Awards Reception in April this year to find out which schools would be named National STARS School of the Year.

Ladycross Infant School from Derbyshire and The Grammar School at Leeds received the Awards which were presented by Andrew Jones MP, Parliamentary-under-Secretary of State for Transport.

Read on to see why our schools really are STARS!


National STARS Primary School of the Year – Ladycross Infant School, Derbyshire, The Midlands

Working closely with Derbyshire County Council’s Travel Smart programme, the school have demonstrated a 59% decrease in car use over the last 3-years from 27% in 2013/14 to just 16% in 2015/16. 5% of children now cycle to school and 15% are scooting. As well as participating in local and national travel campaigns, they also hold their own Healthy Week each year that focuses on safe and active travel. They publicise their activities via Twitter, sharing ideas and best practice to other schools in the County via the Learning Teaching Schools Alliance. They also work in partnership with parents and the local police Safer Neighbourhoods Team to engage and enthuse children to travel safely and actively to school, facilitating bike and scooter security marking and encouraging interaction from parents on their Twitter account to show their support for campaigns.  As the first school to achieve Gold STARS in Derbyshire, their action and activities are the basis by which other schools follow to achieve the same.


National STARS Secondary School of the Year – The Grammar School at Leeds, Yorkshire & The Humber

The Grammar School at Leeds is a large independent through school with approximately 2,000 pupils aged 3-18. They have reduced car use by 18% over the last four academic years from 61% in 2012/13 to 52% in 2015/16. They have done this by using an innovative approach in creating GSAL Transport Limited, providing an in-house bus service that travels up to 30-miles for students to use on their journeys to school. The school now operate 11 routes and the names that are displayed on each of the buses were chosen following a competition among pupils who were asked to draw a picture of their perfect school bus. Over 250 entries were received!

Modeshift STARS is not about telling schools and individuals what they should and should not to do. Instead it is focussed on supporting schools to put together a unique package of measures that best suits the individual circumstances of the school and the community that is serves. We find that many schools are already delivering a significant amount of activity in this area and just need to record the information on the STARS portal in order to be recognised with national accreditation. The scheme is delivered through an online portal that schools and local authorities use to track the activity that is delivered and measure progress towards achieving national accreditation for their efforts.

The next deadline for you to get accredited is the 31st Julyso there is still plenty of time to complete your application. We would welcome any schools wanting to join the STARS family so if you are interested in taking part then please visit or email


*National = England (excluding London). Schools in London should refer to


Coconut milk and Coffee.  Partnerships and People.

Coconut milk and Coffee. Partnerships and People.

By Peter Bell AKA Power Down Pete

The North East regional Sustainable Schools group has been in existence in one form or another for many years and brings together education professionals, local authorities and interested parties with the aim of raising the profile of environmental education across the region.

Our group is flexible and informal with new members joining as they wish. The key aim of the group is simply to support environmental education for young people. As we drink our coffee with coconut milk in our regular meeting haunt in a vegan eatery in York we discuss new partnerships, update colleagues and bring in guest speakers form leading organisations like Eco Schools. Many of our schools are still following the all-encompassing Eco Schools programme and it remains a key driver for environmental education.

Updates and introductions are a key discussion topic.
‘Do you want to know about the exploits of resident energy saving Super Hero Power Down Pete?’
‘North Yorkshires food for life programme?’
‘Farming and country side education?’
‘Global Citizenship or S.M.S.C?’

We all bring things to share!

It’s a very positive group as there are times when you may feel somewhat isolated as an education professional promoting environmental education.  It seems to have a habit of slipping down the agenda for some schools rather than being a whole school ethos that drives school improvement.

Group members regularly attend each other’s events or conferences. Recently the North Yorkshire Council Energy and sustainable team worked in partnership with group member Mike Cargill, an independent education professional on a “Power Race”. Working in teams of four, children had to collaborate to make the turbine towers out of paper, design and construct aerodynamic blades that were driven using the air movers. The activity brought together elements of design technology, renewable energy and teamwork. The feedback from this activity was exceptionally positive from both staff and students.

Banding together has always seemed to be a natural response in times of adversity when financial resources are tight. By bringing together decades of expertise into one group has delivered results and we look forward to welcoming any interested parties into our group.

For further information on this group please contact.

Peter Bell AKA Power Down Pete


Ruth Stacey

Nature and Biodiversity Workshop – Friday 23rd June

Nature and Biodiversity Workshop – Friday 23rd June

Governments world wide are signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals. In order to achieve these goals it must be recognised by all, from policy makers through to young students, that we are dependant on nature, biodiversity and ecosystems. SEEd and the Sustainable Schools Alliance (SSA) are working to create a new Sustainable Schools Doorway to bring attention to this subject which is integral to an ecologically sound future and was not emphasised in the original Sustainable Schools Framework.

This free consultation and workshop event welcomes all teachers, educators and organisations with an interest in education in, about and for nature and biodiversity.

The day will be a motivating learning and sharing opportunity which will provide insights and practical activities for educators and enable SEEd to produce an effective new doorway.

Please do share the invite link with anyone who will be interested.

SSA Nature & Biodiversity workshop_June 2017_Invite

Do We Like Children?

Do We Like Children?

Do We Like Children? part 1 of 3 by Ann Finlayson, SEEd Executive Chair

I was completely shocked when I returned to the UK after 16 years travelling around the world. I had been in countries like Papua New Guinea, Australia and Canada where I had been teaching secondary school, training teachers, and having my own child.

What shocked me was the way many, and especially the media and older people, talked about our young people. Even talking with relatives there seemed to be a fear of young people and especially when they were in groups.

This had not been my experience in other countries. So what was different here? Definitely the media and the way they select news. You must have realised how a theme starts to build and they keep focusing on that until it seems more widespread and worrying. Young people seemed to fit that bill.

Secondly, we have become a hugely risk adverse society and this is often seen in parenting. Children get driven to school for fear of the dangers if they walked. Children don’t go out and just play  in their street or nearby park for fear of abduction.

Thirdly, since the Thatcher years there has definitely been a narrative around young people being a problem at school. Many myths have emerged which reinforce this attitude to young people. Here are a few:

– Young people don’t want to learn. Wrong!

– They don’t care about the environment or other global issues. Wrong – as the 7 NUS surveys continue to demonstrate!

– They only want to play games on their phones or tablets! Wrong – as the forest school movement is showing

– They don’t have the values and attitudes for being caring and concerned citizens. Wrong – as surveys show they are in fact very worried.

There are more but these are the main ones.

So if our young people are ‘acting up’ by: truanting school; getting into alcohol, drugs or sex; getting pregnant very young; being depressed; attacking teachers; not being interested in school – is this their fault or ours? We have an education system and societal attitude that is oppressive to children and our record of very low child wellbeing is the testament to that.

So why is this important? I am about to go to my 3rd policy event this month. The first was about the Sustainable Development Goals in London. The second was the UNESCO global week long conference in Canada and the third is in Manchester looking at the policies that exist in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. At each of these I am making the same point – if we continue to see our young people as deficit in skills, values, attitudes – nothing will change. We have to return to viewing them as capable, interested, having opinions (maybe not fully formed), concerns, and values that should be our starting point. We have to stop thinking of them as empty vessels to be moulded.

This means thinking critically about the conservative, neo-liberal approach to education as training young people up for society – as that society is not looking at its best right now. We need an education system that prepares young people to be caring, creative, agents of change and capable. Oh yes – and then they might change the broken systems we are currently struggling with – environmentally, socially and economically.

Adapting, adding on or tweaking the current education system will not change a thing. In fact if we really stopped being busy and got on with this transformation rather than adaptation of the current system, collectively we might just affect that change. It will affect the policies we should fight for and get behind.

That is the task ahead of us. Hope you agree and will join SEEd to be part of that change – we need you, as our young people need us.




The Wild Challenge

The Wild Challenge

Listen. Can you hear that? That’s the call of the wild!

Nature is important to our children’s health. Contact with nature has immediate benefits to health and well-being as well as giving benefits throughout a lifetime, however,  research shows us that today’s children are increasingly disconnected from nature. Only 10% of children now regularly play outside in a natural setting, compared to 40% in the 1970s.  Couple that with the fact that 60% of UK species have declined in the last 50 years we know that nature needs children as much as children need nature.

With this in mind we have developed a digital awards scheme Wild Challenge. The Wild Challenge is a free online scheme which incentivises children to go out, experience and connect with the natural world and take action to help save nature whenever and wherever they are. It replaces the Wildlife Action Awards.

Wild Challenge is found at all you need to do is sign up. There are 24 activities to choose from, 12 in the help nature section and 12 in the experience nature section. To gain an award all you need to do is to complete 3 help nature activities and 3 experience nature activities, once you have uploaded your evidence on to our web site, we will moderate it and if approved you will have achieved your bronze award. Each child that has taken part will receive a certificate and sheet of stickers to celebrate this achievement. When you complete 6 more activities, 3 from each section you will achieve your silver award and so on until you reach gold.

The scheme has been deliberately designed to give children great opportunities in nature with the activities being closely linked to the national curriculum. Links can also be found on the Wild Challenge website to resources that support each of the activities.

A Wild Challenge award also gains Eco schools accreditation for the biodiversity module and supports work with Children’s University

So what are you waiting for? Sign up now at and start your Wild Challenge journey.

Rebecca Kerfoot

RSPB Schools Product Officer

“If you could choose when to be born, you’d choose right now”

“If you could choose when to be born, you’d choose right now”

I feel I need to state from the outset that I am a big fan of President Obama, not necessarily because of his political persuasion but because I admire his calm thoughtful considered temperament and sense of decency.

So when I caught the end of a repeat showing of one of the Obama documentaries on BBC the other day, I was struck by this quote from him at the end of the programme.

“My view of human progress has stayed surprisingly constant throughout my presidency. The world today with all its pain and all its sorrow, is more just, more democratic, more free, more tolerant, healthier, wealthier, better educated, more connected, more empathetic than ever before.

If you didn’t know ahead of time what your social status would be, what your race was, what your gender was or sexual orientation was, what country you were living in, and you asked what moment in history would you like to be born….. you’d choose right now” President Barack Obama.

Ref: Inside Obama’s White House -The Arc of History, BBC 2. First shown 5th April 2016

As someone who has worked in sustainability education for over 20 years this made me think. (It is interesting however that this statement doesn’t include any reference to the natural environment). I seem to spend most of my time involved in projects where the general data trends are not good, whether that be related to global carbon emissions and climate predictions or obesity levels in children or concerns about rising inequality or devastating global species loss. And yet here is the most powerful man in the world reminding us that (unless we knew we were going to be born into privilege) then to have the best chance in life we would want to be born now.

I wonder if young people in our schools feel like that. Do they appreciate the opportunities they have to be healthy; to learn; to flourish and make their mark on the world? Or could it be that President Obama is misguided in his big picture view and that actually life in the 21st century isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be?

The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide us all with the structure to re-imagine or restructure our world for the benefit of everyone and everything. They are a fantastic opportunity for young people to engage in understanding the really complicated systems humans have created and the equally complex natural systems that we depend upon. With this understanding and associated skill development,  students can then make their mark in the world in whichever profession / vocation they choose. It may be the best time to be born now, but everyone can and should try to make it even better.


I wrote the first part of this blog the day before the USA election. What a thoroughly depressing experience that has been to follow from this side of the Atlantic. A calm temperament and sense of decency has been sadly lacking in this election contest. So we now know we have a new Republican President, the next few months should be used by teachers and students to investigate what this might mean for their futures and the future of the wider world.

Rich Hurst

9th November 2016

Education Development Advisor – Sustainability, Durham County Council and co-lead of OASES (Outdoor and Sustainability Education Specialists) a charitable organisation that supports schools and other providers with sustainability, outdoor and global learning opportunities in north east England.

Twitter: @OASES_NorthEast

Visioning a low carbon future

Visioning a low carbon future

What impact does the strong thread of dystopianism that we see in fiction have on people’s engagement with the world? Coupled with the often confused ideas that they have of Climate Change this seems to lead to a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.

At CAT (the Centre for Alternative Technology) we’ve always been trying to explore positive futures, both in demonstrating a variety of technologies and looking at the ‘big picture’. At the moment we are developing educational activities that enable people to create their own vision of a sustainable future. Our aim is to produce materials that will equip them to do this as realistically as possible. This is a real challenge as there are so many issues to consider and so much information that they need to get easy access to in order to make informed decisions. Of course, all the information that we provide them with has to be based in well researched science.

We have already produced a couple of resources that can be drawn on. One is Energy Trumps, a set of 30 cards on energy sources and ways of using and storing energy with back-up Fact Files on each one. The other is an online greenhouse gas calculator designed for use with pupils. Both are available for free on the CAT website (

CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain research project is a fruitful source to develop other resources. This explores one possible version of a sustainable future where the numbers do add up. An essential part of the process is how they vision it. We use a large map or aerial photo with a variety of models, card, plasticine and other modelling materials, so that they present their ideas in two or three dimensions. We’ve found that this has the added bonus that it prompts creative humour. All sorts of things appear on the map, some pure jokes, such as sea monsters appearing in all sorts of unlikely locations, but most making an important point in a clever way. These workshops are always fun.

The target audience is school pupils from Y6 to KS5 and also community groups, so one challenge is producing differentiated resources. Another challenge is time in the curriculum. Exploring sustainable futures can deliver curriculum content across a range of subjects but that seems to be a difficult ‘sell’ these days. It is potentially easier in schools in Wales than in England, with the Welsh Baccalaureate offering particular opportunities.

Just creating a vision is an essential first step but it is a long way from making it happen. The visioning workshops frequently lead into a discussion of what we can actually do ourselves and with older pupils may well go into the issue of where power lies in our society. My personal view is that it is fundamental to enable young people from the youngest possible age to make decisions collectively and have some control. I have been told of some rare examples of schools doing this meaningfully. With this foundation they are more likely to become engaged members of a democratic society and feel that there are ways to try to implement their visions.

Ann MacGarry

Centre for Alternative Technology

Think Global and the Sustainable Development Goals

Think Global and the Sustainable Development Goals

The new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were announced in September 2015. Global agreement was reached on 17 goals to be achieved over the next 15 years. Their achievement will be no mean feat – it will involve people everywhere working together to learn about them, share good practice, and decide what they can do to make them a reality. At Think Global, our spring seminar series and our Global Educator of the Year Award are just the beginning of our work to support the realisation of the SDGs.

So why are we at Think Global interested in the new ‘global goals’? Firstly they tie-in with our vision for a just and sustainable world. Through activities such as teacher training, awareness-raising campaigns and producing resources and publications, we help people to understand complex global issues such as poverty, conflict and migration. Our approach is to encourage ‘critical thinking’ – we don’t tell people what to think, we help them develop skills on how to think, and to make up their own minds. We empower people to take action, and then to reflect upon the impact of their action.

The SDGs provide a useful framework to hang learning about global issues, with the 17 goals targeting some of the biggest challenges we face in making our world fairer and more sustainable. That the goals are themselves ‘contested’ – in other words, they do not garner universal support as the prescription for a better world – is itself a powerful learning tool, encouraging deeper thinking and reflection of the issues presented.

Our spring seminar series, delivered in collaboration with the British Council, explored the role of education – particularly school education – in realising the global goals. While the first seminar focussed on the work to raise awareness of the SDGs and examined some of the conditions necessary for human behaviours to change, the second of the series delved deeper, focusing on the dispositions and abilities that will allow young people to move from learning about, to living the SDGs. The series closed by examining the concept of ‘global skills’ in more detail – their value for young people growing up in a global economy, and how these skills can be fostered both within, and outside of, the classroom. This might be through careers guidance for example, or with the support of external organisations!

Throughout the seminar series, participants engaged thoughtfully and critically with the information presented, analysing the opportunities for – as well as the challenges to – the contribution schools can make towards the global goals. This critical reflection is vital for us at Think Global, an approach we have also promoted through this year’s Global Educator of the Year Award. With its focus on the SDGs, we want to celebrate those individuals who have gone above and beyond in deepening people’s understanding of one or more of the goals, and who have encouraged people to take action. Nominations came from across the broad field of education – both from here in the UK and internationally! We look forward to announcing the winner and finalists in July, and sharing the brilliant work they have been doing to promote a just and sustainable world.

For more information about our work at Think Global, and for updates on the winner of the Global Educator of the Year Award, visit and follow us on twitter @thinkglobaluk

For resources to support teaching about the SDGs, visit The World’s Largest Lesson page on our website for teachers,

More and more schools reaching for the STARS

This Spring a further 80 schools from across the country have achieved STARS accreditation. Schools from Torbay to Newcastle have joined the growing number of schools that have achieved STARS accreditation that now stands at 522. This year alone 209 schools are already accredited with another large batch of applications expected over the summer.

In more positive news for the scheme, Maple Primary School of Hertfordshire recently became the 2,000th school to register for Modeshift STARS.

The STARS scheme continues to recognise schools that have demonstrated excellence in supporting cycling, walking and other forms of sustainable travel. Currently 55 organisations representing around 11,500 schools in England are signed up to the scheme. If you are interested in joining or would like further information then please email

National Modeshift STARS School of the Year Announced

Rawdon Littlemoor Primary School of Leeds are the first ever National STARS School of the Year. They were awarded the title at the National STARS Awards Reception held in London in March.
The six STARS Schools of the Region all made the journey to London for the Reception which was overseen by Transport Minister Lord Ahmad, who presented the National STARS School of the Year award.
The Awards Reception recognised the tremendous amount of hard work and determination to reduce the number of car journeys made on the school run every day in favour of walking, cycling, scooting and using public transport.

The six schools that attended the awards ceremony were:
• Godmanchester Primary School, Cambridgeshire
• Haydonleigh Primary School, Swindon
• St Bede Church of England Primary, Hampshire
• St John’s CE(A) Primary, Stoke-on-Trent
• The Federation of Abbey Schools, Darlington
• Rawdon Littlemoor Primary School, Leeds

Rawdon Littlemoor Primary recorded no pupils cycling to school in 2013. Within 2-years that figure has increased to 42 pupils regularly cycling to school in the summer months and 18 pupils cycling throughout the year. This is in addition to 63 pupils scooting to school daily and 2 members of staff regularly cycling to school. They have achieved this through a combination of installing infrastructure to support cyclists, and by involving members of the school staff, pupils, parents and governors in the process of promoting sustainable travel options. They have spent the last 2-years fundraising in order to install a cycle track in the school grounds to continue the cycling ethos and last year held a Glastonbury themed festival to help raise the funds which included a roller bike competition, stalls and games. Over 500 parents and pupils camped out overnight as part of the event.

After the awards event, pupils from all six schools travelled across London in a vintage London bus to the BSkyB Studios in Brentford where they took part in a Sky Academy activity which included a tour of the Sky Studios and the production of a news piece on the promotion of cycling.

Transport Minister Lord Ahmad said: “The schools being recognised today have achieved exceptional results in encouraging their pupils to take up healthier and greener travel choices.

“We are committed to Britain becoming a cycling and walking nation and we are providing £50 million for Bikeability training over the next four years so a million pupils can ride their bikes safely.

“There is no better place to instil good transport habits than in schools so the next generation get into healthy routines which improve journeys and quality of life for all.”

Twitter: @modeshiftSTARS
Email: or