Off to a conference “Sustainable school design and operation – a whole school approach”

On Tuesday Ann, Jo and I went to Leicester to a conference called “Sustainable school design and operation – a whole school approach”. Our involvement in the conference is as result of a project we have been doing with DeMontfort University about involving school children in the design and operation of their schools and learning about sustainable design in the process.

It was a great conference; imaginatively put together and with some inspiring speakers and workshop leaders. One of the most exciting thing about it was the range of people it brought together – architects, head teachers, researchers, local authorities, pupils and educators like us. One powerful aspect of the conference was the “visual minuting” – a team of artists recorded what was being said at the conference in a visual way on huge pieces of paper on the walls.

CAT was running two workshops billed as a hands on opportunity to explore sustainable building materials and design. We talked people through the design of five outstanding educational buildings (including our very own Welsh Institute for Sustainability Education – WISE), we demonstrated some of the classroom aids we have devised to talk about sustainable building and we got people to identify a range of natural building materials. Both workshops were really well attended and the feedback we received was great.

The announcement by Tim Oates this week that his review of the school science curriculum is expected to advise that climate change should no longer be in there made the conference seem particularly topical. There was real anger and also total bafflement expressed by conference delegates at the reckless narrow-mindedness of such a position. Focusing only on traditional education and not equipping children with the skills to apply scientific methods to the most pressing contemporary challenges amounts to a watering down of school science. School leavers need to be able to think critically and innovatively about the serious challenge of climate change and be ready to participate in modern Britain and the low carbon economy.