A Leeds group has started a new branch to find ways to combat the climate crisis in schools across Leeds.
By Harry Douglas-Gratton
Our Future Leeds Schools, which is community led, held their launch meeting on Wednesday to discuss how to move forward with their goals.
The meeting was attended by teachers, students, councillors and climate activists.
Matt Carmichael, who teaches English and Drama at Roundhay School in Leeds and is one of the organisers of the group, said:
“What we’re hoping to do in Our Future Leeds Schools is to get into a grassroots thing.
“It’s the students, parents, teachers, governors and local community groups like REAP (Roundhay Environmental Action Project). These kinds of organisations and projects who’ve got an interest in local schools saying, from the ordinary person’s point of view, we’re worried about climate change and we really need schools to start taking action on this even though there’s no requirement for them to do so. We want to bring in a different kind of requirement, a different kind of accountability.
“The reason this group has to exist is because that national requirement doesn’t exist at all. I really think that the government should take responsibility for this, look at what needs to happen in schools and create framework, create resources, fund the training. I think it’s frankly ridiculous that groups of parents and students and teachers are having to drive this agenda. That should not be the situation, but that’s what we’ve got at the moment.”
The group discussed ways schools can reduce carbon emissions, but also how the curriculum can be improved to educate students on climate change.
Mr Carmichael said we should “look at the whole curriculum” to adapt to the severity of the issue.
Create a good future
“What are our students learning about climate change, at what stage, how is that being delivered, and does it reflect the reality and situation that we’re in globally? Does it also inspire and support students to feel that we can create a really good future and it’s not all doom and gloom?”
A study in 2012 found that UK schools could reduce energy costs by up to £44 million a year and the government says effective use of lighting and heating could reduce emissions.
Also in attendance was Makertopia, who brought their interactive model city to demonstrate ways Leeds as a city can become more energy efficient.
The model allows users to create their own city plan with electronic pieces representing different buildings which light up to show whether a placement is environmentally friendly.
Makertopia director Stephanie Robinson said the project uses “the culture of making stuff” to engage people with climate change.
Model of the future
“We’re trying to design a version of model futures which is focused on schools, so how a school’s changing the curriculum, becoming more sustainable and supporting young people’s mental health in the climate crisis.
“We’re here for positive, visioning workshops. Any issue that a school or an organisation wants to focus on or consult on. It’s a very versatile thing and it’s going to get more and more powerful as more people interact with it.”
Mr Carmichael, who is a teacher himself, also talked about his views on students taking part in climate change protests.
“As a human I thought this is fantastic. This is the first thing for, like, 15 years where there’s signs of real hope and genuine change. As a teacher as well it’s much more complicated because, in March for instance which was the first really big one in Leeds, there were students missing from my class who I knew really cared. There were also other students who had just taken the chance to bunk off, and I knew they didn’t have the slightest interest in the issue.
“Immediately I could see this is going to be quite difficult for schools, it’s not straightforward to work out what’s the best thing to do about this. I think every school has to form their own policy on that.”