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Our students want to make a difference, and many go on to roles tackling some of the greatest challenges facing people and planet. Respect for environmental sustainability is expected of all in the school community, supporting our aim of preparing students fully for life and work in the mid-21st century.
Listen to Paulina, Ashley, speaking to High Mistress, Sarah Fletcher, about our school’s commitment to sustainability.
Sustainability is one of the most pressing global issues and a strategic imperative for the school; our Strategic Plan sets out our ambition ‘to continue to reduce our carbon footprint, working with students to engage with climate change and environmental issues’. We were one of the first schools to sign up to the Let’s Go Zero schools’ campaign in 2020, and to conduct a whole school carbon audit. In recognition of both our work within school and our pioneering initiatives bringing together students and staff working on sustainability in different schools, we won the Independent School of the Year Environmental Achievement Award 2021 and received an Eco-Schools Green Flag with Distinction in summer 2022.
Climate change is about everything: it’s about the choices we make, how we choose to lead our lives, the businesses we work with, what we choose to buy […] There are opportunities for everybody to engage in this, because this is a truly global problem. Sarah Fletcher, High Mistress
Sustainability Mission Statement
Ensure that every SPGS student will:
Ensure that the school will:
Each academic department has a designated sustainability representative who works with their department and the school’s Head of Sustainability and Sustainability Coordinator to embed environmental education into the curriculum where feasible and to ensure lessons, trips and other departmental activities are carried out with sustainability fully in mind. Students have been introduced to the following topics going beyond the standard curriculum thanks to our innovative teaching staff: Roman attitudes to the environment in Classics; arctic ice data in Mathematics; climate and renewable energy in Physics; Islam and the environment in Religion and Philosophy; and depictions of nature in History of Art.
Each year group is introduced to topics such as carbon literacy, ethical banking, global climate negotiations, sustainability careers and eco-anxiety through PSHE, form time and year assemblies, with sessions led by members of staff, knowledgeable students or outside experts. The library has an excellent range of sustainability-themed online and physical publications, and regularly showcases resources to coincide with environmental events. Our High Mistress and other staff have been collaborating with the exam board OCR, think tank Chatham House and the University of Manchester to develop and pilot a sustainability-themed Extended Project Qualification – a research-based qualification for Sixth Formers recognised by universities. Many notable alumnae work at an influential level in business, the third sector, science or academia on sustainability issues and often come back to share their experiences at school careers events, assemblies or the Friday Senior Lecture Programme.
The St Paul’s Environmental Action Committee (SPEAC) is one of the most active and long-running student societies at the school, made up of a dedicated committee of VII (Y12) students and a network of year reps throughout the school. They organise a range of campaigns and initiatives, work with staff in sustainability taskforces, write for school publications, give assemblies and attend Parents’ Guild events to raise awareness of environmental issues and encourage greener behaviour across our school community. SPEAC runs a much-anticipated Green Week at the end of the spring term, full of engaging activities such as: a greenest year group competition, Brook Green tree walk, nature-themed poetry reading, online vegan cook-along and sustainable dress-up day, along with a dose of ‘green seasoning’ running through academic lessons and clubs.
A significant proportion of students from all year groups are members of SPEAC, many throughout their school life. Others are involved in complementary environmental activities, such as the Plant Captains Gardening Club, ReStore pre-loved clothing shop, Geog Soc, Chemistry and Sustainability Society, Prototype Engineering for Sustainability Club, and we are frequently hearing of students winning significant national and international environmental prizes or acting as ambassadors outside school. Students often choose to fundraise for environmental causes; recent beneficiaries have included the adoption of WWF animals, purchase of RSPB swift nestboxes for the sports field, removal of ocean plastics, computers for displaced Ukrainian environmental educators, and expenses for global south youth activists to attend international climate summits.
SPEAC allows members of all ages who share a common purpose and passion to work together not only for the benefit of the school community, but also for us as individuals. Being part of SPEAC has made me feel that my voice can have a powerful and positive impact on our environment. I have loved presenting year assemblies to spread awareness about subjects such as fast fashion and working with the school chef and students in our Food and Waste Taskforce. Nephele, Paulina
In recent years, our environmental initiatives have become increasingly collaborative in order to maximise impact. We established the London Schools Eco Network (LSEN) with our partner school Hammersmith Academy in 2019 in order to bring together school eco-committee students and staff to connect with peers, share ideas and resources, collaborate on local, national and international initiatives, and develop personal, social and workplace skills. More schools soon joined, and the network now has connections with over 30 secondary state and independent schools from across the capital, and has formed a model for over a dozen further networks under the umbrella of the UK Schools Sustainability Network (UKSSN), founded by our former Head of Sustainability.
The UKSSN took over 20 students to the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow and has been advising the Department for Education’s Sustainability Unit. Every year a team of St Paul’s students and staff represent our school on the LSEN and UKSSN, helping to chair and minute regular online after-school meetings and in-person events such as a ‘Mock COP’, an air pollution workshop with Dyson engineers, and an annual CPD training day for staff eco-coordinators. Closer to home, members of our school community regularly spend time with Friends of Brook Green, planting wildflower meadows, hedges and bulbs, and volunteer with the charity Thames21 on river clean-ups.
I have been involved with the London School Eco Network since we collaborated in Y7 with local primary pupils to create sails for the global Ship of Tolerance project that was exhibited on the Thames outside Tate Modern. After months of online meetings during Covid, I joined an air pollution workshop with Dyson engineers where I was finally able to meet members in person again! Alex, Paulina and rep for the London Schools Eco Network
Our site team has been pursuing an ongoing programme to improve the efficiency of our heating, lighting and water systems, including the installation of more efficient boilers, a rainwater collection system, LED lights and SMART energy management systems. We have 19 solar panels, with more planned so we can approach full energy self-sufficiency and for many years our kitchens have been using an aerobic digester, affectionately known as “Miss Piggy”, that converts our food waste into harmless grey water. Sustainability was a key criterion for the tender for the new building plans, which makes use of timber structures and the latest technology to reduce its impact on the environment.
After signing up to the Let’s Go Zero campaign in 2020, we commissioned a professional consultancy familiar with educational institutions to produce a carbon audit for the school using the international Greenhouse Gas Protocol methodology so that we can prioritise and base our decisions on evidence. We have been involving the whole school community in this journey by consulting SPEAC, the School Council, Head of School Team, staff sustainability representatives and our student-staff taskforces working on issues such as waste, food, travel and energy. Regular INSET sessions are held on sustainability for all staff and for our sustainability reps to ensure that everyone is aware of the latest developments nationally and internationally, and to enable collaboration between departments and work areas in this shared endeavour.