Creating a sustainable school strategy

It’s a term that’s hot on the lips of professionals across all industries, but sustainability has gone further than being a mere talking point in the last few years alone and many are realising the need for instantaneous action.

Whilst encouraging sustainable initiatives in schools is, of course, great for engaging young people at earlier points in life, how do you ensure your school’s policies are underpinned by meaningful sustainable strategy?

Improving sustainable facilitation

As a school leader or business manager, it can be challenging to think of less tangible business objectives like sustainability as on par with aims such as reducing costs or achieving funding. In 2019, a US study within the technology industry found that successfully implementing sustainable strategies is likely to be inhibited if managers do not wholly believe in or support them. Moreover, a 2011 study based on research from Forum for the Future and the National College for School Leadership determined a four-stage process for embedding sustainability within schools:

  • Beginner (understanding and compliance)
  • Performer (buy-in and initiatives)
  • Leader (working across the school)
  • Pioneer (systematic change)

Considering these findings, it’s likely that a lot of schools will have jumped to the second phase of ‘performing’, perhaps without fulfilling and transitioning from the stage of education and understanding. So, a good place to begin is by taking your school leadership team’s understanding of sustainability back to the beginning phase and working on how this can be better facilitated. There are external organisations that can help improve sustainable facilitation, such as Forum for the Future.

Taking more meaningful action

Once the importance of sustainability is grounded within your teams, you can revisit the actions and projects you might have already implemented to assess the areas for development and how you might better engage your wider staff networks and students. Seeking the genuine engagement of others for new initiatives and projects is a key step in encouraging wider action and inspiring a shared vision. We outlined some of our ideas previously in our blog on supporting climate change action, such as forming a council with staff and student representation, so this could point you in the right direction.

As any leader will know, you can’t simply shoehorn a few keywords into documentation and call it a strategy, or simply communicate it to a wider audience as the new way of doing things. The more you can do to share and engage early on, the easier it will be for sustainable practices and policies to emerge.

Strategic implementation

When you’re confident that your school’s vision for sustainability is shared and understood widely, the transition to more strategic implementation can take place to ensure that it’s not just seen as a short-term project or something that will eventually be forgotten about.

Be clear in reiterating the vision when creating or updating school policies and outline what is required in terms of processes and people, delegating responsibilities and the role as key contact to colleagues that oversee different areas within your school.

The road to pioneering

The fourth stage of embedding sustainable strategies is considered as the transformation to pioneering, in that your school is reaching a point in which it is leading the way for doing new and different things to promote sustainability – within its own environment and as part of a wider community.

As a leader within your school and local education sector, consider the ways you can push the agenda of sustainability further, such as:

  • Knowledge sharing and collaboration between local schools or other community groups
  • Research and evidence on the impact of sustainable practices within your school on:
    • Pupil experience
    • Curriculum
    • Wellbeing
    • Engagement and retention
    • Overall standards
    • Community outreach
  • Providing training and support outside of your school

A union for likeminded leaders

At NAHT, we want to give leaders and aspiring leaders the space to share experiences and grow, as well as the knowledge that there is a network of professionals behind you. From support on creating policies, guidance through issues at work and CPD training and events, we will help you on your leadership journey.

What are you doing within your school to move onto the next stage of sustainability? We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas – share them with us on the Have Your Say page or tag us over on Facebook or Twitter.