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Blooming marvellous – how environment studies grew on our school (sponsored article)

For more than 20 years, Warren Road Primary has nurtured a focus on sustainability and green issues. Headteacher Richard Edmonds shares the story – and where he hopes it will take the pupils next

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The Eco Schools’ Green Flag flies proudly outside Warren Road Primary School, a testament to the long-standing commitment to teaching sustainability at our four-form entry academy.

Sustainability is firmly embedded at Bromley’s Warren Road, so much so that last summer we were awarded the WWF's prestigious Green Ambassador Primary School of the Year award. We’ve also had Green Flag status for many years.

Sowing the seeds

The first seeds were sown more than 20 years ago, when enthusiastic staff seized the chance to use the school grounds to give children more opportunities to learn about the environment and sustainability.

At the time, important environmental issues such as global warming were coming to the fore and a sharper focus was clearly needed within primary education. The school created its first teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) post for sustainability, marking the increased priority given to the area.

Since then, three members of staff have worn the sustainability mantle, each bringing a new vitality and approach and building on previous achievements.

Buy-in from the entire school community has been paramount. We tell everyone – children, staff, parents and governors – what’s going on, and invite them to take part in activities or celebrate our successes. 

Collaborations range from parents helping children to dig over the school’s allotments to staff shaping the sustainability curriculum. New ideas are actively encouraged, such as replacing a broken fence around the nature area with a new hedge planted by the children, creating an excellent natural border and a unique new environment.

Developing strong roots

The key to embedding the green agenda has been making sustainability part of our curriculum. The notion is introduced as soon as the children start school – we give them plenty of opportunities to understand the world and contribute positively to it through local visits, walking and using public transport as well as learning in the outdoor area.

Parents are encouraged to play an active part through activities in the children’s termly homework passports. We hold coffee mornings for the local community to highlight our work and encourage people to get involved.

There are many facets to developing “green” knowledge and skills, as well as positive and ethical attitudes towards sustainability and the environment – take wide-reaching initiatives such as Forest School, science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) activities and other green sciences. A focus on rainforests in key stage 2, for example, shows their significance as well as how humans seek to both exploit and conserve them. We’re also keen to show children how to live a sustainable lifestyle through our links to the WWF, the recycling company TerraCycle, the Royal Horticultural Society and EDF Energy.

First-hand experiential learning is critical to the children’s deeper appreciation and understanding, but it’s not just in Stem subjects where we try to take advantage of our environment. We use Forest School, the school council and our Playground Pals to enhance children’s social skills and general understanding of the world around them.

To make sure the children’s voices are at the centre of ideas, we have a well-established eco-team with representatives from every class to discuss key issues and consider new projects. The team keeps displays up to date with information about initiatives such as the RSPB’s Birdwatches. 

Harvesting results

We take part in lots of events of which the children and adults are proud, including the recent inclusion of Warren Road’s scarecrow, Harriet Habitat, at the Hampton Court Flower Show.

All classes have their own garden outside their classrooms, with children tending and nurturing plants to produce fantastic displays of colour in late spring and summer. There are sensory gardens providing a wonderful habitat for butterflies and other creatures – and new herb areas on the playground so that children can interact with new and interesting smells and textures.

Children need to see good examples of how to engage with food. Our raised beds are well-established and grow fruit and vegetables – the harvest is then cooked in school lunches and sold in the playground.

Our junior travel ambassadors promote safe and sustainable transport to school. This year, they’re working on London’s Smart Movers scheme, which monitors the number of children coming to school under their own steam. They go to Bromley events with other schools to share ideas, before telling the rest of us all about it in assemblies. 

Cycling, in particular, has been a keen focus for us. The school regularly joins in with the Sustrans’ Big Pedal and the Warren Road peloton is increasing year on year. Last December the school received a Transport for London excellence in cycling award at City Hall.

Cross-fertilised environment

We were also honoured to win the WWF’s Green Ambassador award for primary school of the year last summer, for our dedication to sustainable travel, growing food and developing biodiversity around the school grounds. As Green Ambassadors, we join up with other schools. Working together brings new ideas and a chance to reflect on and shape our own sustainable teaching and practices.

We’re committed to supporting other schools who have embraced sustainability, too, and have in addition cultivated partnerships with organisations such as WaterAid.

We take part in a number of energy-focused projects every year, including the Young Eco Engineers (YEE) initiative, organised by the Medway Education Business Partnership. This is fantastic, enabling Year 6 pupils to build kit cars using recycled materials. Powered by electricity, the cars help the children to learn about renewable energy. Once complete and road-tested, they can be raced against other schools’ creations.

Cultivating a better future

The school’s own fuel bills have been significantly reduced through selling surplus solar energy back to the grid. A team of Energy Eagles regularly prowl the corridors to make sure we’re not wasting electricity.

Our grounds are perfect for children to be more active and enjoy plenty of clean, fresh air. We know that children’s physical and mental health can improve when they are outside learning and enjoying themselves.

Sustainability is well and truly established here at Warren Road – and the ongoing focus ensures that the children understand and appreciate more about the world.

What has been so inspiring is the recognition that – no matter how small they may seem – everyone’s efforts count. Through collective action, we can leave an environmentally friendly legacy for everyone to enjoy for years. We’re confident that our Green Flag will continue to fly for future generations.

Richard Edmonds is headteacher of Warren Road Primary in Bromley

 

Become a Green Ambassador School

Green Ambassadors is all about encouraging a new generation of sustainability champions. Register your school for the WWF flagship programme for schools and you'll have access to a range of curriculum-linked resources on topical environmental issues, including energy, travel, food, water, plants, animals and recycling.

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Richard Edmonds

WWF

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