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!

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.