Eco-conscious pupils 'may avoid school trips abroad'

Pupils conscious of how their lifestyles affect the environment may no longer want to partake of foreign travel

Catherine Lough

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Pupils' growing awareness of the impact of manmade climate change could lead to them rejecting school trips abroad, according to a leading independent school headteacher.

Jane Prescott, incoming president of the Girls' Schools Association, said pupils were increasingly conscious of how their lifestyles could affect the environment, leading them to eschew air travel.

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Ms Prescott, who is also headmistress of Portsmouth High School, an independent all-girls school, said private schools would continue their work with partner schools in the developing world.

But she believed pupils may be less likely in future to take long-haul flights to visit these schools, or to participate in school trips.

She said: "One of the problems I think for schools now [with a partnership programme in the developing world] is looking at their carbon footprint. They’re looking at that eco, green agenda.

"How are we sending children all over the world if they’re going to want to offset their carbon footprint? And there are so many ways in which we communicate – it doesn’t have to be by actually going to visit that particular country, it can be through Skype or the other forms of link that you can have.

"Young people are becoming much more aware of their lifestyle. We have a meat-free Monday, for example, which came as a request from the girls themselves. 

"We do not have single-use plastic bottles – they are biodegradable – and we are looking at how we adjust our own environment to make sure they can follow that at home.

"We might not do as many trips, or consider the value of each individual trip. The driver for this will come from the children themselves. Children are developing their awareness of manmade climate change."

Referring to the international impact of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg's efforts to highlight climate change, Ms Prescott said: "Greta is just an example of that, but there are many other young people campaigning for more global awareness of our impact on the planet as a whole.

"It’s about sustainable futures and how we make sure our environment is secure for generations to come."

Many private schools have partnerships with schools overseas or organise annual trips to far-flung locations. 

Portsmouth High School runs a scheme in which sixth-form pupils travel to South Africa to volunteer at a primary school, while St Paul's Girls' School in London has a programme for pupils to volunteer at an orphanage in Russia.

Eton College has also run expeditions to Malawi, Kenya, Nepal and Tibet.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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