Schools work to integrate sustainability into all areas of their curriculum, develop processes to support net zero, plan for outdoor learning and nature connection and provide opportunities for young people, their families and communities to tackle climate action.
A whole school, whole city approach to climate change in Brighton & Hove schools through a systematic process led by headteachers and supported by a senior project lead, governors, business managers and the school community. Schools work to integrate sustainability into all areas of their curriculum, develop processes to support net zero, plan for outdoor learning and nature connection and provide opportunities for young people, their families and communities to tackle climate action.
A comprehensive training package has been developed and budget allocated for staff release time. Close links are being developed between schools, council officers and local organisations. Supporting resources and local contacts are available through a dedicated website.
Most councils have declared a climate and biodiversity emergency and are working towards becoming Net Zero. There is minimal reference to sustainability and climate change in the National Curriculum and the recent Department for Education (DfE) Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy could go further in providing young people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes they will need to live in a changing climate and to take action to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Schools have limited capacity to take on new agendas and most staff report they do not have the expertise in climate change to address this with their students. Coming out of a pandemic, and with significant budget issues to deal with, climate change is not always a priority for all school leaders.
Funding is needed to support this strategy and additional council input is needed to prioritise the reduction of school emissions.
A support programme, including a Leadership for Sustainability conference, providing schools with the knowledge and skills to implement the programme.
Ongoing support to headteachers, senior project leads and other school staff alongside easily adapted strategy documents, surveys, research, curriculum resources and local contacts all collated in a project website.
A budget is allocated to each school for training and school strategy development.
To date, 30 of the 65 schools in the city are involved in the strategy with expectations that more will come on board during this school year. Collectively, teachers across the city have trained their staff in carbon literacy, eco-anxiety and curriculum development. We have seen exciting actions in individual schools e.g. eco-art weeks, rewilding school grounds, plastic free schools, removal of logos from school uniform and the desire for plant-based food in school with a focus of how this integrates sustainability in the school. We are looking to work strategically with council colleagues on carbon saving across travel, food, waste, energy and water. We are now looking to share this experience with other local authorities.
How is the approach being sustained?
Brighton & Hove City Council employs a part time environmental education officer along with a freelance strategy lead. It has allocated a budget to support the programme which release teachers from the classroom to develop their school strategy. Resources are available to teachers through a dedicated website. There is a need to explore other funding models to continue to support this work in schools
It is crucial that headteachers are fully on board. They need ongoing support to help lead this in their schools. Training for governors, business managers and senior project leads must also be ongoing. Money must be available to release staff to implement the strategy.
Schools need to see practical support from local organisations. They also want to see visionary leadership from the council, joint school and council strategy development, and council budget commitment to support development of school buildings in terms of sustainability.
Further details of the strategy can be found on the project website - www.ourcityourworld.co.uk.