Businesses considering involvement in education would do well to focus on the environment as a fertile and rewarding platform for successful school engagement.
The environment is an area of school engagement which offers strong possibilities for businesses to have a genuinely helpful and long-lasting impact on schools, pupils, parents and communities. In schools, it is a hot topic throughout the curriculum and across the key stages. Primary and secondary school leaders regard the development of informed attitudes towards the environment as key to pupils’ progress towards responsible citizenship.
Business involvement will be especially appreciated if it helps deliver curricular themes and targets. The environment features heavily in the curriculum frameworks of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; a whole unit in Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence is devoted to ‘People, Place and Environment’ whilst in Northern Ireland an important thematic unit is entitled Environment and Society. In England, upcoming changes to the National Curriculum lend power to school-based environment projects. The addition of the extra E for economics to PHSEE encourages schools to consider how smart environmental thinking yields domestic, national and global benefits. In addition to PHSEE, the concept of environmental stewardship and the need to develop a degree of responsibility for the future well-being of our planet has become a theme in subjects as diverse as the Sciences, Geography, Design Technology – even Drama and English.
In Scotland as part of their study of Technologies, Second level pupils (age 12) are tasked to analyse “how lifestyle can impact on the environment and Earth’s resources”. Pupils must then “make suggestions about how to live in a more sustainable way”. In Northern Ireland, Key Stage 3 Geography guidance prompts teachers to ensure that all pupils “explore the consequences of our interactions with the environment” making them “aware of the need for change to be sustainable and the importance of thinking globally, acting locally”.
For businesses, such unambiguous guidance provides many opportunities. Companies seeking lower level involvement will find schools eager for support for quick-win projects such as paper, plastic and glass recycling schemes. Further up the scale, organisations might choose to support a school wildlife management scheme or, perhaps, the creation of a school-wide biodiversity project with links to other schools. Other organisations might prefer working within established national schemes such as Eco-Schools which has more than 16,000 schools on board.
Carefully devised environmental projects can also generate sustained, positive and powerful publicity. Marks & Spencer and the Marine Conservation Society’s Big Beach Clean-Up events generated strong outcomes: this summer, over 350 pupils from 15 schools participated in beach-based events all of which had generous media coverage. Joanna Lumley’s involvement in the Shoeburyness event made it a national story. Meanwhile, Morrisons Let’s Grow programme for schools is now in its fifth year and has engaged over 26,500 schools and 5 million children.
At a local level, Snareston CofE Primary School in Derbyshire recently won a prestigious Eco-Schools Award for its innovative environment work throughout the school. Using a variety of resources, some sourced from the Co-op Green School Revolution resource bank, pupils and teachers worked together to launch various projects including an eco theme within Art and Design and Technology lessons, a special eco-day and the creation of an extended nature area including a pond.
Such fruitful projects create a great deal of positive interest at local level and because environmental matters have become such a prominent media concern, there could not be a more appropriate time for business to get involved.
By Geoff Carr, Education Planner