Ten Steps to a More Sustainable School

Ten Steps to a More Sustainable School

Guest blog by Henry Greenwood – Green Schools Project

Teaching Maths at Kingsmead School in Enfield I was frustrated by the lack of awareness of environmental issues, and the lack of opportunities for students to understand the simple steps that they could take to improve the impact that they had on the environment.

Supported by my Headteacher, I developed the as yet un-created role of Sustainability Coordinator, assembled a group of enthusiastic students, and three years later we had saved the school £37,000 in energy bills, had 91% of forms taking part in our recycling programme, grown and sold potatoes, onions and carrots to staff, held Walk to School Weeks which improved the number of students walking to school from 32% to 50%, installed solar panels on the roof of the gym and raised the profile of action environmental action and sustainability in the whole school community.

Here’s a brief outline of how you too could achieve this:

  1. Become the Eco-Coordinator at your school, if this is not currently a role, make it one!
  2. Set up an Eco-team. Any year group that you think would be enthusiastic and willing to go into assemblies to spread the word can form an effective team.
  3. Draw up an Action Plan. Energy should be on there, other good projects to start off with are recycling and growing vegetables.
  4. Collect data on energy usage from past bills. Work with the eco-team to plan a strategy on reducing electricity and gas use.
  5. Get the Eco-team to present assemblies to the whole school. This will raise awareness and gather support for your projects from all the staff and students.
  6. Get your message out there! Get active on social media, create a noticeboard, put messages in the bulletin, get students to write articles for the newsletter and get a page on the school website.
  7. Concentrate on 2 or 3 projects each year, always keeping students as involved as possible.
  8. Measure the outcomes of all your projects – track your energy usage to see how much money you are saving, collect data on recycling, travel to school and any other projects you run so that you can monitor your impact.
  9. Report all the successes widely, keep people informed, and keep the campaigns visible.
  10. Keep going! It’s easy to lose momentum if a project doesn’t go to plan, if students lose focus or a key member of staff leaves the school. The benefits becomegreater the longer the projects run and they become part of daily school life.

This was the most rewarding experience I had in 12 years of teaching, and I’d thoroughly recommend doing it. If it sounds like a daunting project to take on or you are struggling to find time to do all this when you are already busy with everything else that being a teacher involves then there is help for you.

Based on this experience I set up Green Schools Project which provides guides, resources and templates that will take all the time and effort out of achieving this along with visits, tailored energy saving support for your school, and a student login to the website where they can see tasks, upload evidence and compete against other schools. We can also provide a student volunteer from a local university who can help with meetings, motivate the students and support with the projects. Have a look at www.greenschoolsproject.org.uk for more information and get in touch!

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.

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

The Bee all and end all…

The Bee all and end all…

Bees are not the bee all and end all of pollinating species. (see what I did there?).

This week the LTL office has been buzzing with a never ending stream of bee puns and jokes following the announcement by the Heritage Lottery Fund of their support for our Polli:Nation programme.

The usual round of press announcements and articles has ensued and it is gratifying to see all of the positive coverage.

We have schools contacting us daily wanting to be a part of Polli:Nation and we are very excited about the potential impact of this piece of work on some of our most at-risk pollinator species.

Inevitably there will be the odd comment from detractors and we have already seen an ill-informed on-line response to one newspaper article asking who will pay compensation when a child gets stung.

We could ignore this but I think it is worth addressing for a number of reasons.

Firstly – not all pollinators are stinging bees. Some are of course but we have a wealth of other species in the butterfly, moth, hoverfly and bird world who also have a vital role to play and this programme is as much about them as it is about the various species of bee.

Secondly – children are likely to get stung on occasion. For the vast majority this is not a problem and serves only to remind them to be careful around such creatures. The same applies to jellyfish, mosquitos, hamsters and other things that seem to delight in causing us discomfort when provoked, albeit often accidentally.

For those few who genuinely have a serious reaction to a bee sting there is a need to learn how to avoid putting yourself at risk. Where better to do this than in the safe and supervised environment of a school where help and medical knowledge is immediately at hand should things go wrong. If we do not teach children how to manage risk in their own lives then we are not setting them up well for adulthood.

Avoiding all bees in school grounds is virtually impossible anyway and surely it is better to learn about them and their ways so that you can be safer when outside of school.

And thirdly – we need bees as pollinators in order for our own species to survive. Without them the food chain will irrevocably breakdown and we will not be able to eat.

So – bee careful, bee safe and bee inspired.

*Juno Hollyhock is the Executive Director at Learning through Landscapes. Visit them online at www.ltl.org.uk.