Warrington Collegiate in Cheshire encourages students to raise awareness of environmental and social sustainability in the college and in the local community. "We want students to be involved and make a difference," says Lorraine Disney, deputy principal for curriculum and quality.
Sustainability is part of the citizenship programme and the vocational curriculum. The college sets a socially and ethically responsible agenda for all students and staff, to balance the environment, society and economics. "As educators we should be seen as leaders in developing environmental practice for the future," facilities director Bridget Floyd says.
As part of their induction, all students follow the "sustainability treasure hunt". The trail links many of the college's key sustainability features, including solar panels, ground-source heating, a wild flower meadow and a tree-planting initiative.
In the past, students have volunteered in the local community, raised money for charity, joined national demonstrations and staged ethical fashion shows and climate change "flash mobs". They have organised Fairtrade events and a Sustainability Day within the college.
A "climate change campaign" team of eight students set up events including debates, an environmentally themed conference and a "Bucketheads" flash mob in a shopping precinct, where more than 50 students wearing buckets on their heads provided leaflets and information about climate change and asked people to sign an environmental pledge.
Another high-profile event was the "Go Green" fashion show in Warrington town centre, staged by fashion, hair and beauty students. They modelled sustainable clothing, including Fairtrade and ethically produced items donated by high street stores and garments made by students from recycled and reused fabric.
All fashion students do a project on recycling in fashion, exploring its impact on the environment. The students make clothes from recycled material, including their own designs. Jennie, who knitted a dress from plastic carrier bags, says: "Making clothes out of recycled materials really focused my views on sustainability in fashion."
Sustainability is also embedded in the vocational curriculum. The college has invested in solar panels and rainwater harvesting, and land is provided for tree-planting and growing vegetables. Harvested rainwater is used for washing tools and equipment and making mortar.
The construction department incorporates solar panels, solar heating and ground-water heating into all its programmes. Jack Hodgkiss, a plumbing apprentice, says: "I work for a local social housing trust, so it's important that I can install and maintain renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, because they keep the costs down for our tenants."
Signs of success
In 2011, Warrington Collegiate won a national award for best sustainability initiative in the UK public sector for its energy efficiency initiatives. While student numbers have increased by 26 per cent, energy consumption has fallen by 7 per cent, paper consumption by 1 million sheets and carbon emissions by 320 tonnes.
What the inspectors said
"From the tree-planting in the grounds and rainwater harvesting plant in the construction workshops to the recycling bins, the college has embraced sustainable development and has done much to reduce its carbon footprint. Even more impressive is the students' involvement in sustainability ... and their raising of awareness in the local community."
Read Ofsted's full report at bit.lyVUyJue.
Name: Warrington Collegiate
Location: Warrington, Cheshire
Type: Further education college
Number of students: 3,000
Intake: Co-educational, offering courses and apprenticeships for 14-plus students and school-leavers.