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Headmaster's Blog: Working towards a greener school

Headmaster's Blog: Working towards a greener school
Mural depicting Greta Thunberg under a melting polar ice cap

With nations gathering in Glasgow at COP26 the environmental plight of the planet is a hot topic globally, but also at Pocklington School, where we are adopting a school-wide approach to improving our environmental sustainability.

Climate change is a major risk and action is not currently happening fast enough. COP26 aims to bring leaders together to accelerate action towards goals set over five years ago. This included countries’ pledges to limit increases in global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and be ‘net zero’ by 2050. COP26 makes clear that climate change is everyone’s responsibility, and we all have a role to play, to secure our children’s future and that of subsequent generations.

The Pocklington School Strategic Education Vision aims to ‘enhance our sustainability and efficiency’ and this objective reflects our commitment to take action against climate change. We are proud to say that positive changes are already underway, with more planned from staff and pupils to achieve these goals.

Pocklington School pupils who are passionate about creating a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable school environment meet once a week as part of our Eco-Committee, a student-led group established in 2019. This provides a platform for pupils to discuss environmental issues and initiate change. Since its inception, the group has worked hard to implement new initiatives as part of the Eco-Schools programme, which provides a seven-step framework to help young people engage with environmental issues important to them and their local community. After activities such as tree planting, installation of houses for wildlife and the launch of a digital-only magazine, GoGreen [], the Eco Committee were delighted to receive the Eco-Schools Bronze Award. The group are working on new initiatives this term, such as a campaign to reduce vehicle engine idling on school grounds, and they hope to achieve the Silver Award by the end of this year.

Our curriculum also addresses key environmental issues and encourages pupils to think about climate change and consider how they can reduce their own carbon footprint. Previous work has included investigations into sustainability in new products and materials in Design and Biology competitions to study changes in fungi caused by climate change. In ‘Mind, Body and Soil’ our Pre-Prep pupils think about the sustainability of food production and transport, whilst cultivating the school fruit and vegetable plots. Year 7 and 8 pupils have been working on a mural that depicts Greta Thunberg below a melting iceberg, surrounded by climate protest placards, rainforests and endangered animals. Prep School ‘Curiosity Project’ questions have examined various aspects of climate change, pollution and sustainability and next term plans are afoot for a cross-curricular project encompassing Geography, Art and Computing to investigate how technology has had a positive impact on the environment.

Pocklington School consists of sizeable, historic buildings with multiple satellite units, which require a great deal of energy.  Two photovoltaic (solar power) systems have been installed on the Tom Stoppard Theatre and the Art and Design Centre to generate power for the school, with plans for the installation of a larger unit with greater carbon saving in the future. Other initiatives taking place within the school include the removal of non-LED lighting and the changeover of maintenance equipment from petrol to electric power.

Our catering team take great pride in providing a wonderful food service with fresh ingredients that are locally sourced and prepared from scratch wherever possible. The Foundation’s ‘Food Charter’ sets out clear directives for quality standards, which also serve to reduce the school’s carbon footprint and reliance on single-use plastic.

Of course, behind all these larger initiatives lies the ‘small stuff’ that enables pupils and staff to help the Foundation be more sustainable.  Schemes such as ‘Cycle to work’, digital rather than hard copy resources, powering down unused IT equipment, turning off lights and recycling of materials are just some examples of simple measures which can make a big difference to efficiency and sustainability.

We are proud to be supporting the COP26 goals in our own way at Pocklington and particularly enthused to see our pupil community committed to taking vital steps in tackling climate change.

Please click here to see an infographic summarising the eco-friendly initiatives used to increase the sustainability and efficiency of Pocklington School.