Working to net zero in the school system
21st November 2022
On 6 October, Bristol Education Partnership hosted an event bringing together 12 schools to work collaboratively towards net zero. In this post, our Communications and Engagement Coordinator Ceilidh Jackson – Baker shares some of the successes, challenges and opportunities for schools taking climate action.
Schools today are facing many different challenges and so it’s heartening to see Bristol’s schools working together on the climate challenge. Bristol Education Partnership is a collaboration between local education providers to enrich education and improve outcomes for children and young people in the city. One of their current projects is the Climate Challenge – working with organisations across the city to address the climate crisis in our school communities.
Throughout the Climate Challenge, staff and students have been working on 5 key areas; energy, food, transport, nature and biodiversity, and waste and resources. Attendees heard directly from the students of 12 schools about their activities ranging from switching to bamboo cutlery to installing bat and bird boxes; from motion detecting lights to electric vehicle charging stations and purchasing options for staff.
Some of the standout actions include:
- Organising clothes swaps for school uniforms and specialist items such as PE kit, prom outfits and Christmas jumpers.
- Purchasing an electric buggy for the Caretaker.
- Learning about career pathways in the environmental sector.
- Group actions for nature including a beach clean, tree planting ceremony and wildlife monitoring day.
- Holding wellbeing lessons and climate cafés for students to discuss feelings of eco anxiety in a supportive environment.
Despite the multiple barriers such as lack of funding, lack of time, and challenges of influencing behaviour change, students are keen to be much more ambitious with their climate and nature action. All the young people who spoke shared some of the ideas they want to implement. They want more recycling bins, solar panels, meat free Mondays, energy efficiency measures and sustainable travel incentives as well as:
- A bottle deposit scheme.
- Encouraging car sharing for staff.
- Making sustainability a core pillar of the school so all decisions consider the environment.
- Embedding climate change into the curriculum.
- Double yellow lines on school road.
- Electric minibuses for school trips.
Bristol is a beacon of hope
According to Jonathan Clear, the Department for Education’s Chief Sustainability Officer, the number of car journeys in the UK related to the school run is about 1 in 70, and the total amount of roof space across the school estate is about 16,000 football pitches. This gives a sense of the scale of the challenge as well as the opportunity.
He spoke to attendees about his remit to advise Government ministers on policies for the education sector to become more sustainable, adapt to climate change and seize the opportunities in green skills.
The Department for Education has set out a Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy aiming to be a world leader as an education system by 2030 through:
- Embedding excellence in education and skills for example by introducing a Natural History GCSE and training Teachers to be confident in how they can teach and engage in climate change as an issue.
- Supporting all schools to become net zero.
- Helping schools be resilient to the impacts of a changing climate through nature-based and engineering solutions.
- Creating a better environment for future generations including through the launch of an education nature partnership.
He highlighted Bristol as a “real beacon of hope” and “an area doing so much as a community to drive forward this agenda” and encouraged the schools present to continue to learn from each other about best practice.
Preparing young people for their future
Shaista Mahmood, Bristol Education Partnership’s Student Partnership Board Chair reminded attendees that young people know the scale of the challenge. She shared a request to listen to students, and to provide time, tools and support to work together on tackling climate change.
There is no doubt that it is a huge task to support schools to become carbon neutral and climate resilient, and prepare young people for their future, which will require investment into the education system. However, the young people we heard from have loads of ideas and enthusiasm for climate and nature action. It would be a disservice to them, us, and future generations if we don’t support them to be part of the solution and learn the necessary skills to adapt to the changing climate.
Support for schools
- Bristol Education Partnership – a collaboration between education providers to enrich education and improve outcomes for children and young people in the city.
- Transform Our World – a community of educators empowering students to take climate action with events, resources, Teacher CPD sessions plus a free Schools Climate Action Planner to enable teachers, students and staff to identify actions they can take to reduce their school’s environmental impact and carbon footprint.
- Avon Schools Eco Network – a network of students to connect and collaborate on issues they care about.
- Eco Schools – a framework to empower young people to take climate action with the option of working towards a Green Flag accreditation
- STEM Climate Ambassadors – professionals with expertise in the climate sector, who are keen to volunteer some time working with schools and young people. Through this scheme, volunteers can provide young people and the education sector with specific input and practical advice on issues relating to climate change, sustainability and environmental protection.
- Force of Nature – student programmes and teacher trainings to enable young people to translate eco-anxiety into action.
- Sustrans School Streets – advice and support for implementing motor traffic at the school gate.
- One Tree Per Child – a tree planting scheme for primary schools
- Global Goals Centre resource hub – a growing database of information, activities and educational resources to help us create a fairer, green future for all.
- Threads – a classroom game exploring the social and environmental impacts of our clothing.