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Sustainable schools: Must try harder, says Ofsted

blackboard.jpgSchools and sustainability? Must try harder, seems to be the report card from watchdog Ofsted. If they carry on at this rate, they’ll have to go and stand in the naughty corner.

While schools should be teaching the future leaders of Britain to be greener than Kermit the Frog, the reality isn’t quite as promising. “Some schools are already leading the way in encouraging pupils to be green, but most have limited knowledge of sustainability and place little emphasis on teaching or promoting it,” says Ofsted.

Pah. And all this with the government’s sustainable schools framework looming in 2020 too. (As a side note, Ofsted found few schools knew anything about the framework. You can find out more here if you’re in the dark too).

Here’s some highlights (lowlights?) from the report:

  • In most of the schools visited during the survey, there was little emphasis on sustainable development and limited awareness of national and local government policies for this area.
  • In the large majority of the schools, promoting sustainable development through National Curriculum subjects was inconsistent and uncoordinated.
  • In many of the schools, sustainable development was a peripheral issue, often confined to extra-curricular activities and involving only a minority of pupils.
  • A small number of the schools placed considerable emphasis on sustainable development. In these cases, teaching was good, lessons were stimulating and pupils took an active part in improving the sustainability of the school and the wider community.
  • Primary schools were more successful than secondary schools in promoting sustainability, particularly in terms of using their grounds as a resource for learning about it.
  • Schools were more successful in developing pupils’ understanding of local rather than global issues of sustainability.

But Greenbang doesn’t like to leave it on a bad note. Here’s some of the good examples of sustainability found by Ofsted:

By monitoring meters, pupils in a primary school had ensured average savings of £50 per week on electricity bills. They were now going to extend this activity to water meters.

In another school, Year 2 pupils could explain that the more electricity they used, the more fossil fuels would need to be burned to produce it. Therefore it was important to turn off lights, computers and other electrical apparatus when not in use. They recognised that their actions could have wider implications. They understood that two local wind farms also generated electricity and realised that these had prompted differing reactions from members of the local community.

In a third school, pupils had studied wind farms and made and investigated model turbines in science and design and technology lessons. They expressed their views with passion and enthusiasm and showed considerable depth of understanding.



  • Andrew Harmsworth
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    We’ve been pushing through the “8 doorways” required to become a Sustainable School for a few years now and are well on our way. Our electricity use is down (despite bills being up!) as is our gas use for heating. This summer we’re adding a large solar thermal installation and we’re investigating (Thursday) the recycling of cooking oil from our kitchens into bio-diesel for our minibuses…

    All of this is really positive and a great learning process for pupils and staff alike. Ofsted is right to want to push this hard.

  • dieter gross
    Posted May 27, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    It’s interesting, implementing ESD is still more steered by barriers than by drivers. We are just doing an international survey on that (UNESCO/Bangkok and Japan too). International
    experts have been confirming that the concept behind “sustainability” hasn’t still been explained sufficiently:
    most people do not understand it and the most serious deficit:there is no real rethinking of education itself, only social aspects are added to Environmental Education.

    The survey is open – see

    Best greetings
    Dieter Gross

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