I have had numerous discussions with teachers and headteachers in the last 10 years and there is a real concern about: repeating sustainability activities; not making the most of the potential for learning; and not seeing a progression of knowledge, skills and attitudes that they can report on.
Again a common theme is the isolation of the ‘champion’, but our work with schools using an appreciative inquiry method has shown that there is an untapped awareness, and motivation in schools but often not a mandate.
Education for Sustainable Development began in the UK in the late 1980’s with WWF-UK. They began by developing pockets of practice, then adopting a whole school approach. In 2002 this become a framework called Pathways.
The UK Department of Education then adopted this whole school approach in 2004 leading to the UK Sustainable Schools Initiative. A framework with an ethic of ‘care’- care for oneself, care for others (local and global) and care for the environment was developed to be embedded in school improvement plans.
What is a whole school approach to sustainability?
A quick google search will reveal a plethora of approaches to the concept of whole school interventions. They can be categorised into two main approaches:
The first approach is much more about engagement. For example the RSA are currently promoting a whole school approach to mental health of pupils. By this they mean all staff are trained and responsible for monitoring and helping. It’s not just left up to one counsellor.
But a whole school approach to sustainability is built on an ethos and a self-evaluating framework so that the work can continue to develop.
Why is an ethos and framework essential?
You will be modelling how it relates to all our knowledge and how the world works – environmentally, economically and socially. There are many opportunities within the current National Curriculum to do this. The original framework used ‘doorways’ to access sustainability thinking e.g. food, water, energy, inclusion, buildings, transport etc.
Many surveys have shown this worry about the future exists within young people and is one of the contributors to declining mental health in our young people.
This is important because living and working sustainably is a developing practice, both in terms of our changing environment, changing technology and changes in society. So it is important that students learn this key concept about sustainability.
There is no one way to teach sustainability – and the text book on how to solve all our problems has not yet been written. There are however 17 Global Goals called the UN Sustainable Development Goals – and all governments have signed up to them. We have until 2030!
The learning from this will provide an ever changing set of projects year on year that build skills and knowledge for students.
If you would like to learn more about how to develop this programme for your school, contact SEEd.
To find out more go to https://se-ed.co.uk/edu/future-citizens-whole-school-approach-sustainability/