Pupil power: how students are turning schools green

The Guardian reports that a scheme encouraging young people to take the lead on environmental projects is changing habits, growing leaders – and saving schools money.

At the Manchester Creative and Media Academy, six year 10 students have just done an environmental audit of their school. They conducted interviews with staff and other pupils, inspected what was already being done, and examined energy policies. From this they have planned campaigns on recycling and litter – with specific targets – to make their school greener, all while studying for their GCSEs. 

Rachel Pickering, a geography teacher and coordinator of the project at the Manchester school, says the scheme has helped her students develop a professional approach to making change. “After the audit, they were able to come up with a list of priorities to focus on and presented this to the senior leadership team,” she says.

The Green Schools Project is the brainchild of Henry Greenwood. After 12 years of teaching, he joined the legions of start-up entrepreneurs in the capital, launching his social enterprise in September of that year.

The idea began during his previous role at Kingsmead School in north London. “I was frustrated by what I saw around me; lights left on, windows open with the heating on in winter, recycling boxes not being emptied and litter everywhere. There was just a lack of awareness among the students about environmental issues.”

 

Using the Eco-Schools framework he set a successful club. Over a three-year period, the student’s energy-saving campaign saved £35,000 and got the whole school recycling. They installed solar panels, started a vegetable garden, held ‘walk to school weeks’, and before long had landed the highest Eco-Schools accolade – the Green Flag.

Now more than 20 schools are signed up and actively running green clubs using the model devised at Kingsmead. 

This month, the government launched a new litter strategy, which identified the Eco-Schools award as a key mechanism to educate children and young people about the impact of litter. While such recognition is welcome, some campaigners and educators would like the government to go a step further and make environmental issues something on which schools are inspected by Ofsted.

Greenwood believes the scheme will keep building. “I do sometimes feel like I’m pushing a ball uphill, but maybe we’ll get to a tipping point. There are enough teachers out there who care about this stuff – and definitely enough students willing to take on these projects.”

Read much more Pupil power: how students are turning schools green

How would your school rate in an environmental Ofsted inspection? Do you think it’s a good idea? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or on Twitter ~Tamsin

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