‘Schools in Sheffield need to commit to actually being environmentally friendly to save the planet'
While the summer holidays are giving teachers some down time and we recharge our batteries after a busy year, the crazy weather in the first two weeks of the break could provide a focus for Sheffield schools for the return in September, writes our secret teacher.
Not enough is done in schools to make a positive contribution to the environment and this urgently needs to change, both at a secondary and a primary level.
When we are fried in week one of the holiday with sizzling temperatures that result in record-breaking mercury levels, and then see flash floods devastate areas of Yorkshire in week two, we must realise this extreme weather is becoming more common.
Many media outlets were still posting pictures of kids playing fountains and families soaking up the sun on the beach, with few even mentioning climate change and none that I saw reporting it like the global catastrophe that it is.
A quick scan of the papers shows the ten hottest years in the UK have occurred since 2002, a bridge collapsed in flash floods, a mascot died from heatstroke and Prince Harry vowing to only have one more child for environmental reasons.
But there is no fear or panic in this writing, no sense of urgency.
We are potentially sitting on the edge of a mass extinction event, and this is terrifying stuff for our children.
Climate change deniers are increasingly becoming a small minority in our society and if you talk to a group of children they will fully realise the causes and threats of releasing more greenhouse gases.
But the problem in our schools is that they currently talk the talk about being environmentally friendly without necessarily walking the walk.
Some schools in our city have been awarded a green flag for being an ‘Eco-School’ and this is something I have been involved in getting.
The problem with this award is the same as the issue with environmentalism across schools in general today – it’s very good at teaching the kids how to behave responsibly and what to do, without necessarily insisting that they are doing it.
The lack of actual eco-action in schools is shocking when you think about the amount of lessons that are dedicated towards saving the planet in geography, citizenship and science.
There are secondary schools in the city where recycling bins are in the classroom, but they are just a front pretending action is taking place because at the end of the day all the rubbish is bagged up together and put in the same skip, providing a huge lie to children.
Lessons are taught every year about the importance of renewable energy, but there are few academies or Local Authority schools in the city that have made any use of their huge roofs to house solar panels or a wind turbine.
One secondary school introduced a uniform with a blazer made out of plastic bottles in a genius move, but has since introduced a new supplier so that not all of them with be so eco-cool.
The council is extending its ‘anti-idling’ programme to get people turning off car engines near school gates by adding 600 more signs, but it’s not policed and only one fine has been enforced.
If you observe a lunch time in most secondary Sheffield schools you will see a wasteful hour with large amounts of single-use plastic being sold to children and instantly binned, and that’s even before we get onto food waste and the lack of composting that goes on.
September is the time when schools, the council, food providers and other agencies working in education need to get with the programme and start leading by example rather than having a ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach to environmentalism.
Real commitments need to be made that will encourage a reduction in the use of plastic, an increase in renewable energy production, safer cycle lanes so our kids can bike to school and recycling that is effective.
Yes, all these measures are going to cost money. But we can we really put a price on saving the planet?