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How can the education sector shape its sustainable future?

21st April 2021

How can the education sector shape its sustainable future?

With the UK government pledging £1bn to rebuild schools and make them more sustainable, educational settings are now tasked with mapping out their sustainability strategy for a greener future. To some this may seem like a big challenge, whilst others have already been making small steps to improve their environment, helping the UK meet its commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

According to the academic and environmentalist, David Orr ‘architecture as pedagogy’ means we learn things from the buildings in which we learn. With green schools being the ideal environment for children to learn about sustainability, this important audience has a key role in developing the sustainable strategy of their school. In fact, all school stakeholders have an important part to play. From parents and governors to teachers and the wider community, these stakeholders collectively have a responsibility to improve their school’s carbon footprint.

So how do schools get their stakeholders engaged?

Dorothy Joddrell, a student campaigner at Teach the Future said: “The purpose of education is to prepare young people for the future – at the moment it’s failing to do so. Our lives will be significantly affected by climate change and our education should therefore prepare us to adapt to the climate crisis, empower us to contribute to its solutions and enable us to achieve climate justice.”

Many pupils and students fear we’re not acting quickly enough. School strikes led by Greta Thunberg saw an estimated 7m children and young people demanding government action on climate change. Introducing new ways of learning as part of green schools provides the opportunity to make climate change a central part of the curriculum. Initiatives like ‘Less CO2’, ‘Energy Sparks’ and ‘Solar for Schools’ are helping schools to connect the sustainability of school facilities with how to explore the subject of sustainability in the classroom. The introduction of school eco councils and eco teams also gives pupils ownership, empowering them to drive forward the sustainability message in their school. By helping their school with its sustainability strategy, young people can have a positive impact on addressing climate change whilst helping their school achieve green status.

Engaging teachers in their school’s sustainability strategy means giving them the tools to educate their pupils in climate change across the curriculum, and not just in subjects like science and geography. In a recent survey 7/10 UK teachers said they’ve not received adequate training to educate their students sufficiently on climate change. This gap in the curriculum must be addressed as part of the sustainability strategy. Increasingly teachers are being encouraged to introduce their own green initiatives including: finding new means of transport around schools and trips, gardening and growing vegetables on site, working with the Wildlife Trust schools programme and identifying where school food comes from, ensuring that it is locally sourced.

It’s not just pupils that can help shape their school’s green future, but the wider community too. A large number of school renewable energy projects involve community energy groups, developing local green projects that have a positive impact on the local community. Green schools have the opportunity to become a community hub for learning and taking action to tackle the climate crisis.

And finally, parents have a responsibility to support their school’s sustainability strategy. Whether it’s through fundraising for projects to help their school become more sustainable or supporting their child on their own sustainability journey as they educate and empower them to address climate change for good.

Barker is an integrated property consultancy and trusted advisor to schools, trusts, colleges and universities across the country. The Barker team helps develop and implement energy management strategies that lower costs, reduce impact on the environment and create positive stakeholder engagement. With considerable experience of energy transformation in the education sector, Barker has developed and refined a process that delivers carbon and budget savings. The Barker Energy 360 process supports and guides you on your sustainability journey. Barker manages the entire process, from start to finish – letting you focus on developing your organisation and building futures.