School leaders tackle sustainability at ‘Our City, Our World’ conference

More than 50 school leaders recently attended a sustainability event organised by Brighton & Hove environmental education (BHee). The day-long ‘Our City, Our World’ conference was held at Varndean School and brought together headteachers, governors, and sustainability leads from local schools across Brighton & Hove. 

The event was opened with an introduction from Councillor Hannah Clare, Deputy Leader of the Council. The morning session included a keynote talk from Dr David Dixon, author of ‘Leading for Sustainability: Saving the Planet One School at a Time’. BHASVIC also gave a presentation about their work with the Department for Education around climate literacy and the green skills agenda.

Local experts in travel, energy, food, biodiversity and waste joined the afternoon session to discuss working together towards net zero. Attendees were tasked with envisioning what they would like their schools to look like in 2030, and examples included ‘schools will be fossil fuel free’, ‘schools will be plant-based with zero waste’, and ‘every school will have access to nature’. 

Harnessing creativity 

Councillor Hannah Clare said: “The recent ‘Our City, Our World’ conference brought together a range of school staff and governors with one thing in common – the need for climate action in our schools and education settings. Coming together gave us an important opportunity to discuss pressing topics for schools such as climate literacy and leadership for sustainability. 

“The also conference highlighted the importance of working together collectively to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. This ambitious goal will not be possible without the support of organisations and businesses across the city, harnessing the creativity and motivation of young people to create a more sustainable world. 

“By taking action now, we hope schools across Brighton & Hove are also able to engage and inspire students to join the fight against climate change.”

BHee is working with schools to address the climate and biodiversity emergencies through teacher training, sustainability and wildlife workshops, newsletters, inter-school events, school ground development and Empowering young people to take action for the environment. It is working with schools across the city to develop a strategy for sustainability, climate change and environmental education. 

Working closely with schools

Katie Eberstein, Brighton & Hove Environmental Education Officer, added: “The ‘Our City, Our World’ strategy is a whole school, whole city approach. We recognise that school leaders must take responsibility for this agenda and involve the whole school community, which is why we decided to organise this conference. 

“Young people want to take action on climate and biodiversity and see action being taken, and Brighton & Hove has a wealth of expertise, both within the council and in environmental organisations as well as individuals to help make that happen. Working closely with schools is an effective way to impact the wider community and therefore the city itself.

“Our next steps will be to take a closer look at the collective visions for Brighton & Hove schools and understand what steps we need to take to work towards these.”  

Integrated approach

BHee is piloting an integrated approach to sustainability with 10 schools in 2022, putting sustainability at the heart of the curriculum, campus, culture and community of these schools. BHee intends to begin rolling the programme to all other schools in the city next year.

BHee is a free service to Brighton & Hove schools provided by Brighton & Hove City Council and delivered by Sussex Wildlife Trust, in collaboration with The Living Coast UNESCO Biosphere and Brighton & Hove City Council’s target of Carbon Neutral 2030. For more information, visit BHee’s website

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