Athens, Australia and misplaced admiration!

Athens, Australia and misplaced admiration!
November 16, 2015
Sustaining the routes to sustainability
January 19, 2016

I have had many meetings in the past year with other sustainable schools networks based on the UK Sustainable Schools Initiative. I keep being told it was innovative and a great programme. You can imagine their disappointment when we tell them the UK Government no longer supports it. However, the concept of the Sustainable Schools Alliance (the SSA) does interest people especially where they are also facing cuts.

So far we have been in touch with Australia (state of Victoria), Colombia, Brazil, Athens and Cyprus.

We were asked to speak about sustainable schools in Athens last week. It was hard to follow Aravella from Cyprus as she announced that Sustainable Schools was now mandatory in Cyprus. I could have wept!

However, on reflection and in our strategy workshop with the Attica region (around Athens) on Saturday, I began to feel we do still have something to offer. The maturing of our approach and the journey so far is of interest. In particular is the learning gathered in the UK on how to help teachers overcome the barriers they are experiencing. Plenary sessions at symposia with a lot of moaning used to be like this in the UK, but the narrative has changed.

The story is now:

  • sustainability learning in schools does not have to cost money and that
  • the pedagogies (teaching methods) needed are very good practice and have knock on effects in terms of motivation, achievement and outcomes for students.

This narrative seems to be gaining ground here and it is not based on either the idea that one programme/activity will suffice or that schools have to be perfect models of sustainability. They have to model learning and trying.

This is why the appreciative inquiry approach (starting where teachers are) and a whole schools approach are so effective, sustaining and transformative.

I think it might be time to say a very big thank you to:

  • WWF-UK for the Pathways framework which kicked this all off,
  • Jonathan Porritt when Chair of the SDC for offering to support Charles Clarke in creating a schools framework and offering SDC seconded staff,
  • Jake Reynolds for being that seconded staff person and seeing this through,
  • Ben Hren and others for designing (still) a great set of resources.

But I think it most important to thank Janice Lawson, who was the senior DCSF staff member who helped ease the way for the SS Initiative to take off. Without Janice it may not have reached the wider society, especially through the regional networks, Teaching Awards and civil society participation. After retiring from DfE, Janice took a break and then eventually came and joined the SEEd Board for 2 years. She has just stepped down and we are going to miss her clear thinking and insight. Other trustees felt this was the end of an era, but I think we have been transitioning to a new era for sustainable schools and we were hugely helped by Janice in that transition.

So do please when you get a chance thank Janice as we have.

More on how we can build more momentum for sustainable schools in next month’s blog.

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