Sustainability and Ethics
Sustainable development is a priority at Sir John Lawes School. We strive to ensure that it is a key part of the curriculum as well as a prominent feature in the way the school is managed. Pupils have demonstrated a keen interest in contributing to sustainable development and have taken a lead on many initiatives around the school. Our Eco-Schools group has made a significant contribution to developing the school’s commitment to sustainability and were pivotal in us achieving the Eco-Schools Green Flag Award in both 2010 and 2012.
In the classroom
Sustainable development is a core part of the curriculum in Geography, Science, Citizenship and Design and Technology but also features in some way in the majority of subject areas.
Examples of work that students carry out within other areas of the curriculum include:
Technology - Year 9:
Junk sculpture project – students collect junk and use variety of products that would be thrown away as a starting point for a design & make project
Life Skills – Year 8:
Environmental issues unit covering topics such as sustainable development and global warming.
Animal Studies and Conservation – Year 9:
In this enrichment course pupils develop their understanding of local, national and international efforts to conserve the natural environment
Geography – Year 9:
Students investigate how sustainable the town of Harpenden is
MFL – GCSE:
Students learn vocabulary relating to environmental issues
We also have an annual Green Week organised by students from the eco-schools group in which they encourage staff to incorporate green themes into their lessons.
Past activities for this have included:
RE – Year 7:
Students produced posters on how Buddhism promotes green living.
Maths – Year 9:
Comparison of costs of low energy versus normal light bulbs.
Our eco-schools group and Junior Leadership Team created a school ‘Eco-Code’ to summarise the actions that they felt we should all be taking to improve the sustainability of our school.
Our Eco Code:
- If you are not using the lights, turn them off.
- Instead of leaving your TV on standby, turn it off completely
- When you have finished with the computer, turn it off
- Close windows and doors to prevent wasting heat in the winter
- Use as much natural light as you can
- Think: do you really need to print that? And if so, could you fit it on less paper?
- Recycle paper and plastic using the school recycling bins
- Try to walk to school or use the public transport instead of travelling by car
- Turn off dripping taps - it saves money and energy!
- Remember to look after the environment you live in
Examples of specific actions the school has taken to ensure greater sustainability include:
Energy: We have an energy monitoring system and use data from this to remind the school community about the importance of saving energy. We encourage students and staff to turn off lights and computers when they are not using them and have a programme to switch off computers at the end of the day.
Waste: We encourage students and staff to reduce waste. One measure we have taken is to allocate printer ‘credits’ to give more of an incentive to think before printing. Another initiative has been to design our own mugs made out of recycled material which are now used for meetings rather than disposable cups. Our eco-schools group have worked to encourage others to be more responsible with their waste through delivering assemblies and improving the labelling on our bins.
Water: We have installed water flow regulators to the cisterns that flush the men’s urinals which has resulted in significant water saving.
Biodiversity: We have a dedicated biodiversity area behind in which pupils from the eco-schools group have put up bird feeders and are in the process of building a bug hotel. This is an ongoing project and any ideas would be welcome of other things to include.
In the community
We try to make an effort to contribute to sustainability outside our own school. Students have been involved in delivering assemblies and workshops on themes such as climate change and waste reduction in a number of local primary schools. Last year our Sixth Form ‘Green Leaders’ delivered assemblies on food miles to several local primary schools.
Our Leading Practioner for Global Dimension and Sustainable Development spends half a day a week supporting other schools in the county to develop activities in this area. This includes running the St Albans City and District Sustainable Schools Ambassador Programme. Over the last 5 years we have trained over 300 ambassadors from nearly 50 local schools. During their training they learn about what it means to be a sustainable school and explore what they can do to make a difference. They go on to carry out at least one activity a term aimed at making their school more sustainable.
We recognise that many environmental problems might have both local and global consequences. We encourage students to think beyond the impact of our actions on our own lives and to think about the consequences further afield.
For example, in 2013, several of our students attended a conference on Farmers Feeding our World run by Oxfam in which they were challenged to think about some of the challenges facing food producers around the world as well as to think about what they could do in response to these challenges.
Eco-Schools is an international awards system that helps schools looking to become environmentally friendly achieve their goals. Being an Eco-School has many benefits such as saving money and raising awareness of environmental issues. Within Eco-Schools, there are three awards. Bronze, silver and the prestigious Green Flag Award (which Sir John Lawes recently achieved in 2014 for a second time). Despite having achieved the award again we recognise that there is still much more that we can do to become more sustainable and our Eco-Schools group is always looking for new initiatives to promote sustainability.
The Eco-schools group is made up of around 20 students from across the school. Formal meetings are held on a fortnightly basis after school. Some of their achievements from 2013-2014 include:
- Running a 'Lights Off, Blinds up' campaign to promote use of natural light over electric lights.
- Introducing water saving initiatives.
- Producing recycled Christmas gift tags.
- Holding a Master Chef competition using locally sourced ingredients.
- Making recycled bird feeders for new biodiversity garden and planting a wild flower garden
- Running activities for Green Week 2014 including a form mascot competition, assemblies to the whole school and an energy saving faculty competition which was won by Humanities.
- A year 7 and eco schools litter pick both in and around the close proximity to school. This was reported in a local newspaper with a photo of the group in July.
Sustainable schools ambassadors
Sir John Lawes are the hub school for the St Albans and District Sustainable School Ambassador Programme. This is a district wide scheme that aims to make schools more sustainable at the same time as bringing together students and teachers from across the district. All participating schools nominate two ambassadors who will serve for a year. These ambassadors are then invited to attend a training day held at Sir John Lawes, where they learn more about the issues facing us today and what they can do to help. All ambassadors are then expected to undertake at least one activity per term to help make their school and the wider community more sustainable.
SJL also runs a Green Leaders Programme for Sixth Form students for local schools which involves training a group of Sixth Formers to deliver assemblies in primary schools. Last year our Green Leaders delivered assemblies on food miles to three local schools.