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Let’s talk schools & sustainability

Schools may talk the talk when it comes to sustainability - but are any making meaningful progress? Two top local headteachers show how it's done

Moulsford School, South Oxfordshire 

Schools have a responsibility to prepare children for the world they will inherit, and to reflect the values that are important to both pupils and their parents, and nowhere is this more relevant than with regard to sustainability and the environment. For Millennials (current school parents) and Gen Z (current pupils), sustainability and the environment are central to what drives their key life decisions, and schools like Moulsford need to ensure they are aligned with them.

Focusing on recycling paper in the classroom, and having an eco-rep to turn out the lights are excellent initiatives but only scratch the surface. The children should be directly and meaningfully involved, and sustainability and the environment must be embedded into the curriculum at all levels. For schools to live out the message, there needs to be a whole community approach – from the Head and Governors through to staff, children and parents – which centres on every aspect of school life. 

For many it’s hard to know where to start when tackling sustainability issues, as the topic is so large and all encompassing. The Moulsford Sustainability policy is broken down into 11 clear areas with defined goals for each: Education, Energy, Water, Waste, Buildings and Grounds, Catering, Sports & Activities, Classroom Equipment, Transport, Events and Community. This not only makes measured progress more achievable but also gives individuals ownership over specific areas.

So, for example, Moulsford’s Catering section of the policy aims to:

  • to ensure that as many products as possible are locally sourced and seasonal
  • to completely eradicate the use of single use plastics
  • to reduce the amount of meat eaten on a weekly basis by the School
  • to significantly reduce the amount of food waste generated by the School
  • to use biodegradable bin bags for unavoidable waste and to make sure anything that can be recycled, is recycled
  • to use only biodegradable tea bags throughout school
  • to make sure that School packed lunches for trips and events are plastic-free

These are backed up by specific actions for the Catering Department to achieve their set aims, the likely impact that success will have on the community.

We think that all key strategic decisions should have sustainability and the environment at their core. Moulsford is currently constructing a brand new state of the art Pre-Prep building (below), due for to open in Sept 2022. 

The building has been carefully designed to incorporate eco-friendly systems including solar panels and air source heat pumps for underfloor heating, and there will be natural ventilation through roof turrets. Green roofs will cover flat roof areas, and extensive planting and landscaping with wild flower meadows will enhance the external areas and shield the building from the road. You can take a virtual tour of the new building here.

Education and living through example are the most powerful tools we have as we prepare children for their future, and ultimately the security of our planet, and we’re proud of our visionary approach to the sustainability and the environment at Moulsford. 

Ben Beardmore-Gray, Head, Moulsford Prep School. Visit the school at the next Open Days on Fri 24 and Sat 25 Sept 2021.

d’Overbroeck’s School, Oxford

At d’Overbroeck’s, our students champion sustainability in a number of ways, including through their Extended Project Qualification projects (EPQs) and the school’s Eco Club.

We’ve always encouraged environmentally focused EPQs at d’Overbroeck’s. One of our first annual EPQ prizes, awarded back in 2010, went to a student’s project entitled Hive Collapse Syndrome – why are bees disappearing? Since then, students have worked in collaboration with the Eco Club and Geography Department on a wide range of projects focused on environmental issues, from plant-based diets to sustainable housing.

Last term two of our Upper Sixth students, Zoe and Milo, represented d’Overbroeck’s at the international Back To Nature conference in Lithuania, and presented their EPQ projects. Zoe’s artefact project, Metamorphosis, is an art film exploring the interactions between humans and the natural world. Milo’s dissertation project focuses on whether post-combustion carbon capture technology can provide a viable solution to help tackle climate change. As expected, both projects were extremely well-received.

Meanwhile, our Eco Club is a whole school student-led group which works in partnership with teachers to research and highlight environmental issues to the school community. Students are encouraged to actively grapple with environmental and climate issues in an open forum, and to shape the club’s focus and awareness initiatives. Some of their work so far includes:

  • Recognising UK and global awareness events, such as Earth Day and Green Week, and bringing these to the attention of the school community (including through student social media takeovers)
  • Encouraging school management to commit to a Meat Free Monday lunch menu, the use of ‘green’ and public transport options, working towards sustainable lifestyles and zero carbon initiatives. 

Next term, our Eco Club and Geography students will also be learning about the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and raising awareness of the steps we can take towards a greener future.

Jonathan Cuff, head, d’Overbroeck’s, Oxford. Visit the Sixth Form virtually on 16 Sept or in-person on 9 Oct 2021.

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