Beyond greener schools

25th August 2006 at 01:00
Governments have a fatal attraction for glossy documents, and the more "strategic vision" they contain the better. In fact, the Scottish Executive's latest offering, Learning for our Future (page five), on sustainable development in education, is short on glossy but long on strategy. On such a subject, how could it be other? It is a comprehensive amalgam of common sense. The question is: do we need it?

If the priority is to raise awareness among pupils and teachers on the threats to the planet, that does not seem to be a problem. According to the figures in the report itself, 70 per cent of schools have already signed up as eco-schools, although the degree of activity represented by that figure will vary enormously and there will probably be more of it in primaries than secondaries.

In addition to the gratifying involvement of schools, the reshaped curriculum will also pave the way for a sustainable focus on the world's resources. The emphasis on turning out pupils as responsible citizens, the new science curriculum, health-promoting schools, building enterprise, extending schools' global links - these are all bedrocks for stimulating sustainable development. And there are any number of organisations, from Learning and Teaching Scotland to the Forestry Commission, standing ready to fertilise the soil. The emphasis on sustainable design in school buildings reinforces the message.

The executive's document does, however, draw many of these threads together and it is one of the virtues of a strategy document that it shows people who may think they are working in silos that there is a common cause. The report is essentially about making connections.

The one thing which schools must not do is fail to practise what the curriculum preaches: they, too, must act sustainably. As the report puts it: "Congruence between what is taught and what is practised is important for effective learning: without it, good teaching can be badly undermined."

There are many messages in this report that go well beyond "the greening of schools".

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