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AIM – A sustainable approach to sustainability in schools

Rachel Shaw  Rachel Shaw
08 May 2022
At Pedagoog, we are constantly reading, reviewing and adding articles to our web-app library to inform schools’ strategic decision making and provide personalised CPD to staff.

We have made it our mission to ensure Pedagoog users encounter views from a wide variety of authors and organisations (including contrasting views) and to organise them so that they can be accessed in a matter of seconds.

We are joining forces with SchoolIP to share with you some of the insights from our recent research on how schools can apply the principles of sustainability and gain recognition for their efforts without any expensive investment or need for consultants.   

We call this our ‘sustainable approach to sustainability’ and it reflects our circular economy approach to knowledge (not wasting what has already been created).  

A  - Audit
I    - Initiate
M – Measure

Key to this approach is avoiding the temptation to jump into a whole host of uncoordinated initiatives; have you noticed how often the energy for these fizzles out?  By spending more time on stage 1 – the audit phase – the second and third phases (initiate/measure) will have a greater chance of success.  This article will consider ways to approach the audit and planning phase of a sustainability plan.  We will then look at ideas for what to do and how to gain recognition in subsequent Insight articles.

The first step towards moving forwards in any initiative is to have a clear idea of where you are.  

There are various audit tools available which interrogate the degree to which sustainability is already embedded in the school development plan and day to day practices.  These audits ask questions such as whether there is a policy or mission statement published, whether a budget exists, the extent to which decision-making involves staff and students and what training is available.  They are designed to help schools reflect on what steps they can be taking to develop their approach but also to capture market data about current practices.  

School IP have got together with the National Governance Association (NGA) and the National Association for Environmental Education (NGEE) to bring you a free Sustainability Audit Tool.  The audit tool is aimed at producing strategic insights which can be used at management and governance level to inform future strategy.

Another simple audit tool is provided by SEEd –Sustainability and Environmental Education (click here).  Their website also offers with a host of useful links to helpful resources for planning and auditing sustainability within school improvement planning.

A different approach might involve conducting a biodiversity audit and free tools exist for these too – for example, that produced by the National Wildlife Federation.  

Some resources are aimed at auditing and improving classroom practice rather than school management such as this one from Earth Guardians.  

It is also worth noting that most education consultancies will produce something similar in order to increase engagement, so it is worth examining the credentials of the organisation before choosing which resource to use. 

Once the audit questionnaire has been completed, the real work begins!  While audits reveal current achievements and help identify future goals, the time-scale, resources and leaders need to be identified.  Sustainability initiatives can produce cost-savings but many require additional time and human effort.  A simple example would be moving away from paper cups in the staff room at breaktime.  This seems a simple step, but those china cups tend to distribute themselves across the school during the day, causing the kitchen staff extra work in collecting them up and washing them ready for the next day’s use.

Audits therefore need to cover not only what a school could or ought to be doing, but what resources, especially time/labour are required in order to produce both short and medium term change.   As we struggle to find ways not to exhaust our natural resources, it is important not to exhaust our human resources.  

Rachel Shaw
Pedagoog Pedagogical Library and Web-App

Speaking of resources, if you would like to read more of the articles that inspired this blog, or indeed, any of the 2500+ articles on pedagogical and practical matters (from behaviour management and SMSC to curriculum design and inclusion), please click this link.

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