NSSC 17 – an inspiring ‘now’ & hope for the future

NSSC 17 – an inspiring ‘now’ & hope for the future

Education Matters because…

‘it is the most powerful tool we can give future generations’ Georgina, 16

Sustainability Matters because…
‘it ensures a future for everyone, all life – even those that don’t have a voice’ Olivia, 16

‘Why can’t we have untested lessons that allow us to explore and emotionally grow. We have to expand our horizons and allow ourselves to be educated

These are just a few quotes from young people who attended the National Sustainable Schools Conference (NSSC) 2017 that can offer reassurance and pride to all of those involved in learning for sustainability, environmental education and global learning; encouragement that young people are listening and thinking critically about the issues of today and the future.

The NSSC, which gathered organisations involved in educating and inspiring people to take action on all aspects sustainability, has been described as ‘a great way to learn from each other and almost more importantly, to support and encourage each other’. Vikki Pendry, Curriculum Foundation.

A big Thank You goes out from SEEd and the Sustainable Schools Alliance to everybody who was involved in making the day a success.

With special appreciation to our opening speakers, James Murray from Business Green and Georgian Stevens with Finn the Tiger Shark.

The conference sponsor Think Global were very busy running Supply Cha!nge workshops all day with;
Fairtrade Foundation, Joanna Mills
Co-op Food, Amy Morris
Marine Stewardship Council, Kate Jones
You can read more about their workshops on the Think Global blog here.

Participating organisations which shared their projects and resources, much off which can also be found on their websites were:

Woodland Trust,
Ashden – LESS CO2
Centre for Alternative Technologies,
Thames Boat Project,
Thames Water,
Cob Oven Man,
Eco Action Games,
Future We Want,
Target for Green,
Being Animal,
School Energy Efficiency,
Queen Katharine Academy,
Blooming Minds

The refreshingly varied and motivating workshops were led by:

Vikki Pendry,- Curriculum Foundation,
Dr David Dixon,
Bobbie Harvey – FACE,
Henry Greenwood – Green Schools Project,
Helen Cox plus students from Sir John Lawes School,
Mary Jackson, Learning through Landscapes
Phillipa Slater, City of London Open Space programme
Traci Lewis, Catalyse Change 
Ann Finalyson, SEEd

Many workshop leaders have kindly shared their presentations and other information. You can find them in a shared open access folder here.

Thanks to everyone who made it an inspiring day.

Making a Supply Cha!nge –  National Sustainable Schools Conference 2017

Making a Supply Cha!nge – National Sustainable Schools Conference 2017

This year, Think Global is delighted to be supporting the SSA participation in the National Sustainable Schools Conference through our EU-funded Supply Cha!nge project!

Collaborating with 28 partners across Europe, we’re helping to achieve SDG 12 by raising awareness and encouraging action around responsible consumption and production. There is a particular focus on supermarkets – the products we buy there, and where they come from. What are supermarkets doing to ensure fair working conditions along their supply chains, and achieve sustainable production that protects, rather than damages our environment?


We’re very excited that Co-op Food, as well as Fairtrade Foundation and the Marine Stewardship Council will be at the conference on Monday 13th November to discuss the work they are each doing to achieve ethical and sustainable supply chains. This is a unique opportunity for young people to ask these organisations their questions, and to think critically about the action they can take as consumers, and in their future careers!

If you’d like to find out more about Supply Cha!nge project, check out our project webpage. Following Chocolate Week, you might be interested in the webinar we held with Professor Christopher Tankou from the University of Dschang, Cameroon, about the social and environmental impacts of the global demand for chocolate. Or, if you’re involved in the World’s Largest Lesson with its focus this year on food choices, order a free copy of Think Global’s 2017-2018 wallplanner and check out the accompanying teaching resource around ethical and sustainable consumption.

Finally, take a look at our DoNation campaign, and make your own pledge for sustainability. We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

Catherine Richardson, Think Global

Inspiring the next generation to help create a low-carbon world

Inspiring the next generation to help create a low-carbon world

Guest Blog From Ashden – a Sustainable Schools Alliance member

Ashden’s LESS CO2 programme is a free energy efficiency programme available to any UK school and is not only helping to create more sustainable schools, but also galvanising young people to join the movement for a low-carbon world.

The programme runs over the course of a school year in a series of four half-day workshops, and includes expert advice and resources for staff as well as the opportunity to ask questions, discuss ideas, and brainstorm solutions. The workshops cover various aspects of energy saving, from recording meter readings to monitoring energy use, behaviour change for staff and students, and how to incorporate sustainability into the curriculum.

Local schools work together in geographic clusters of up to 15, sharing information, experiences and advice on how best to tackle energy usage and reduce energy bills.  The chance to learn from other schools is one of the reasons the LESS CO2 programme, which is supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, is proving so popular.

Top Tips from a Devonshire School

We asked one of our recent graduating clusters to share some of their advice to schools that are just starting out on their own energy management journey. Here are our Devon schools’ tips to making sustainability a success:

  • Get as much data as you can at the beginning of the process and learn how to calculate savings and payback times. This makes it easier to demonstrate the impact your work will have, and to support any funding requests you make.
  • Start measuring and monitoring what you are currently using in terms of energy.
  • Create short, medium and long-term actions to ensure that you are looking at quick and easy wins, as well as being ambitious with your bigger plans.
  • Don’t underestimate how much time you will need to do this – speaking to other members of staff, reviewing energy data and contacting energy suppliers all takes time. It’s worth investing time in speaking to staff in all departments in your school. Plan in this time.
  • Involve teaching members of staff early on. It’s good to have support from all corners. Help staff understand the cost of energy use at school by putting it into comparative figures they can relate to. For example, the cost of support staff hours in relation to the cost of leaving computers on overnight.
  • Link the building management staff with the teaching staff to ensure that they are working together to save energy in the school.
  • Get students involved – this is a great learning experience for them which they can take into their future education and careers. They are also great at encouraging/nagging staff to switch off their lighting and equipment!

On average, schools that take part in the LESS CO2 programme save 14% of their energy spend in addition to lowering their CO2 emissions.  In the coming year, the programme is looking to recruit more schools in areas of social and economic deprivation.  In order to really embed best practice in energy saving, Ashden is aiming to deliver the programme to 3000 schools by 2021.  Find out more at www.lessco2.org.uk and follow us on Twitter @LESSCO2

STEM club members make a presentation at the Okehampton Primary School assemby – one of the 11 feeder Primary schools the College has worked with to introduce sustainable energy. The school has just had PV solar panels installed and the theme will be ‘not to waste the energy they are now making for themselves’.Okenhampton College, Devon.

Raising the status of Biodiversity in the Sustainable Schools Framework

Raising the status of Biodiversity in the Sustainable Schools Framework

Experiencing nature is being increasingly recognised as a critical element of young people’s time at school. The organisations which make up the Sustainable Schools Alliance are motivated by this positive direction and believe it needs to be tied into fostering an understanding and respect for broader but interconnected sustainability issues.

The SSA first met in October 2016 to discuss the scope of producing a new doorway on Nature and Biodiversity for the Sustainable Schools Framework. Members had noted that although wildlife and nature come under the ‘biodiversity cross-cutting theme’ they could easily be overlooked within the current framework which doesn’t offer teachers clear routes into exploring those subjects.

The fifteen SSA members are bringing their varied expertise to this collaborative piece of work for the first time, with RSPB, OASES North East and SEEd taking on particular roles. It was quickly clear that this new doorway is an opportunity to give the framework format a makeover.  If this one is successful the SSA are keen review other doorways; their relevance, how to update and present them in a teacher-friendly manner.

It was exciting to recently reach the stage of holding a workshop and consultation which allowed teachers and educators to trail and feedback on the proposed new design. Read more about that here in a SEEd blog post by Ann Finlayson. The event was supported by many SSA members including Centre for Alternative Technologies, Association for Science Education and North Yorkshire County Council as well as many SEEd members and school teachers.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) which most clearly relate to nature and biodiversity were identified. This generated insightful discussion how they are being taught and acted upon, or not, in UK schools and therefore whether a Sustainable Schools Framework should be linked to SDG’s?

Important conversations were held around not just how nature and biodiversity is highlighted yet embedded into learning but about how it can be monitored and seen as integral across the three C’s of curriculum, campus and community. SSA member Bluewave Education presented its online school improvement management software which could include a quality framework designed for SDG’s, or another set of aspects chosen to monitor this new doorway.  The software allows schools to clearly see that making achievements in this framework also contributes to reaching targets and quality standards in other assessments and monitoring they must undertake.

The SSA members are looking forward to trailing this new doorway content and design with different groups over the coming months, taking on board feedback and officially launching it at the National Sustainable Schools Conference in October.

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 www.modeshiftstars.org or email starscomms@modeshift.org.uk.


*National = England (excluding London). Schools in London should refer to https://stars.tfl.gov.uk/


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 Peter.bell@northyorks.gov.uk


Ruth Stacey Ruth.stacey@northyorks.gov.uk

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 www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswildchallenge 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 www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswildchallenge and start your Wild Challenge journey.

Rebecca Kerfoot

RSPB Schools Product Officer