Written evidence submitted by Friends
of the Earth Youth and Education Network |
This submission concerns sustainability within government
generally, but also specifically in the Department of Education,
in light of the proposed cutting of the Sustainable Schools project.
To be "The Greenest Government ever" the government
needs to promote values of common-interest, participation, social
justice and responsibility towards others throughout all their
policies as only this can lead to the co-operation needed to tackle
global problems. The Sustainable Schools aspect of the Sustainable
Development commission needs to continue and strengthen as all
other policies for sustainability affect only the present - sustainability
in schools secures the future.
1. "How can mechanisms to ensure the
sustainability of Government operations, procurement and policy-making
be improved and further embedded and mainstreamed across Government
a. Sustainability must be built into all the
new school policies that are currently being written or the idea
that this is the "Greenest government ever" is just
rhetoric. I understand the government's dilemma on this, as it
conflicts with an understandable move to cut red tape:
"The school Self Evaluation Form (SEF)
process takes days out of heads' time and can cost schools tens
of thousands of pounds. The Secretary of State has asked Ofsted
to ditch it." - Michael Gove
However, the SEF was the place where a school evaluated
how sustainable it was. If schools are not going to be required
to do a SEF any more, there needs to be an alternative way for
the sustainability of schools to be measured. As you will be aware,
only things that are measured will be prioritised. If you do not
measure sustainability in schools, you are sending a message that
is not important.
b. In writing the policies for the new academies
and free school, there needs to be built in an obligation to embed
sustainability into their curriculums and cultures. In the application
guidance to apply for a new free school, there is a request to:
"Please set out the Free School's aims and objectives.
You should also describe:
- the teaching methods that will be used and whether
the Free School will follow a particular philosophy (e.g. Montessori);
- the outline of the Free School's proposed curriculum,
including any religious ethos;
- how the Free School will improve pupil learning
and ensure strong discipline;" - Free
Schools - Proposal Form 
There could be an additional request to describe,
for example, "How the Free School will embed sustainability
into the culture and curriculum of the school". If this is
not seen by the government as an essential aspect of a Free School,
this would point to a serious lack of commitment to sustainability.
I appreciate the government's wish to allow freedom in the curriculum
and ethos, but ensuring a sustainable future for children cannot
be compromised. Only if all schools are expected to become sustainable
will sustainability truly be embedded into our future.
c. The new "slimmed down" curriculum
will also need to include sustainability as a core principle:
[Not just in the range of subjects, qualifications
and pathways in schools, but] the entire planned learning experience
of the child or young person, in other words everything the school
as a community intends to lay before them for learning. That breadth
means lessons, rules and routines in corridors, changing rooms,
playground, the regular round of assemblies, visitors into school
(theatrical, business, connected to religion/belief), meetings
and dialogues with young people from elsewhere, learning outside
the classroom, and what happens in the schools dining room and
kitchen. Children and young people can learn as much from the
ethos, ways and rituals of the school community as they do from
content in lessons. - Mark Chater
d. In terms of procurement, sustainability criteria
must apply to school meals, school supplies and new school buildings.
New schools must be built from durable materials with the smallest
environmental impacts possible, reusing materials from the old
buildings if possible, or at the very least, these old materials
should be resold to other builders for re-use. Renewable energy
and energy saving measures should be of a very high standard.
2. How can governance arrangements for sustainable
development in Government be improved, and how can sustainability
reporting by Government departments be made more transparent and
The current measure of GDP only considers the amount
of money generated in our country - including money generated
by rebuilding from floods, clearing up environmental disasters
and polluting industries. If GDP continues to be held up as the
only important measure of our country's success and sustainability
reporting is left hidden within the EAC, improving our sustainability
will never be seen as important enough to merit serious consideration.
The only way to make sustainability reporting more transparent
and accountable is to make it part of the national measure of
success, instead of a separate measure which people can choose
to ignore and disregard. In other words, a more holistic measure
than GDP which includes wellbeing and sustainability is needed.
"The Happy Planet Index (HPI) provides that
compass by measuring what truly matters to us - our well-being
in terms of long, happy and meaningful lives - and what matters
to the planet - our rate of resource consumption. The HPI brings
them together in a unique form which captures the ecological efficiency
with which we are achieving good lives." - New
Economics Foundation 
Using a new measure of success for the UK such as
the HPI would show an outward commitment to sustainability. Something
that is in the public eye in this way will naturally come under
more scrutiny and will therefore be more transparent and accountable.
3. Was the SDC successful in fulfilling its
remit? Which aspects of its work have reached a natural end, or
are otherwise of less importance, and which remain of particular
a. The DCSF's Sustainable Schools Strategy was
built on the foundations of the Sustainable Development Strategy
and the Children's Plan. As the aim was for all schools to be
sustainable schools by 2020, this work still has a long way to
go before reaching its natural end. Even after 2020 there would
need to be a continuing role for the Sustainable Schools Strategy
to help new schools, new teachers and the continuing development
b. For there to be an "enhanced departmental
capability and presence" as this inquiry states, the Sustainable
Schools Strategy will need to be retained and strengthened in
the education department. We need a system such as Sustainable
Schools which sets a standard for schools to work towards, as
part of the core curriculum and embedded into Ofsted inspections.
If there is no inspection by Ofsted, no there
is no imperative for Headteachers to help young people to participate
c. The strategy is popular with schools, who
can see its huge value and potential:
"Unlike many "initiatives", the Sustainable
Schools framework is a gem on so many levels and if anything,
it needs additional support, not less, to enable more schools
to engage in a meaningful way. Carried out properly it meets many
national indicators, meets Kyoto & COP agreements, contributes
to increased awareness of climate change and how to reduce it,
as well as showing the children that we as the-current-adults-in-charge
take their futures seriously." - A
teacher contributing to the Government's "Spending Challenge"
d. However, after writing to the Department for
Education asking for the Sustainable Schools Strategy to be kept,
I received a letter containing the following:
"It will still be up to schools to decide if
becoming a sustainable school is the best way for them to operate,
and the greater flexibility in the curriculum will allow schools
wishing to do so an excellent opportunity to incorporate the teaching
of sustainability into a broad and balanced curriculum."
- Letter from Jayne Watson, DfE
This implies that schools will not be encouraged
or helped to become sustainable schools. This is, in effect, abandoning
schools who are trying to do the right thing and degrading the
importance of sustainability with children, parents, teachers
and the wider community - all of whom were involved in the Sustainable
Schools Strategy. I wonder what proportion of the population could
encounter positive messages of sustainability through the Sustainable
Schools Strategy will not if it is not cut.
e. I think the importance of schools in creating
a sustainable society must not be underestimated. If the future
is to be sustainable, the people who will be running the future
- today's children- need to be included and enabled to play a
full part. It will not be enough if the only children to appreciate
the full implications of sustainability are those whose schools
choose to prioritise it. The Sustainable Schools aspect of the
Sustainable Development commission needs to continue as all other
policies for sustainability affect only the present - sustainability
in schools secures the future.
4. In formulating a future architecture for
sustainable development in Government, how can it take on board
wider developments and initiatives (e.g. to develop "sustainability
reporting" in departments' accounts) and the contributions
that other bodies might make (egg Centre of Expertise in Sustainable
Is tying sustainability reporting into accounts fundamentally
a good idea? Doesn't this imply that sustainability is only good
as long as it saves money and makes consideration of sustainability
secondary to economic considerations? Sustainability reporting,
I think, needs to be separate and have its own value or to be
part of an overall measure of success like the HPI as in section
5. How, without the assistance of the SDC,
will the Government be able to demonstrate that it is "the
greenest government ever"?
a. The only way to demonstrate true green credentials
is to ensure that the VALUES needed for the development of sustainability
are embedded throughout all government policy and ways of working.
The values promoted by government and wider society must be those
of acting in the common-interest, participation, social justice
and responsibility towards others. Sustainability can only
be achieved if people are concerned with others around the world
and in the future, rather than only themselves in the present.
b. Big Society is an inclusive, co-operative
vision - but these values do not seem consistent throughout policies.
For example, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, promoted
the above sustainability values when he said of National Citizen
"We know that across the country many
young people are ready to stand up and make a difference to their
local community. We see NCS as key to building a Big Society,
to increasing engagement, cohesion and responsibility for young
people across the country."
"This programme will allow a whole generation
of young people to make a difference in their local area and play
an active role in making society a better place." - CO
press release 
Yet the values that will lead to young people wanting
to be involved in this are not being promoted in schools - the
"...asking Ofsted to change their framework
to focus on four principal areas: the quality of teaching, the
effectiveness of leadership, pupils' behaviour and safety, and
pupils' achievement." - From a Michael
Gove press notice, 23 September (reducing bureaucracy)
These headline criteria seem to be at odds with the
values of the Big Society and of future sustainability. The children
will be taught, controlled, disciplined, protected and assessed
throughout their time in school - and only in the schools that
choose to prioritise it will they become the informed, creative,
motivated and empowered citizens we need.
It is realistic to assume that after a two week "National
Citizen's Service" at age 16, children used to being taught,
lead and controlled will morph into fully thinking, engaged adults
ready to lead the country into sustainability?
c. As another example, the government intend
"...continue to offer parents more choice
with the expansion of academies and the free school programme."
- Letter from Michael Gove
Yet increased parental choice in itself is an appeal
to self-interest values. Instead of making every school a good
school so children can walk there and meet friends who live close
to them which strengthens communities, this policy encourages
parents to drive their children far from where they live. It encourages
competition for places in good schools and new schools, whilst
taking resources from struggling schools, which could be forced
to close. Inherent in this is waste and replication of resources,
as more schools are built than are needed and other schools decline.
d. Fundamental analysis needed of the conditions
to ensure sustainability. It is no good to keep promoting business,
consumerism, lack of community, etc, in most policies, then trying
to stick SD on top like a plaster. SD is a way of thinking.
e. To show it is "The Greenest Government
ever", there is a need for an open debate - or at least an
explanation from government - about what values really matter
to them, so we, the public, can see the reasons behind the policies
that are being set.
 From a Michael Gove press notice, 23 September
 Free Schools - Proposal Form.
 Mark Chater, QCDA, September 2010.
 New Economics Foundation.
 A teacher contributing to the Government's "Spending
 In a letter from Jayne Watson, Public Communications
 Common Cause, The Case for Working with our Cultural
Values, September 2010.
 Prime Minister to launch National Citizen Service
pilots for young people, CO press release 22 July 2010
 From letter to Christopher Trinick (QCDA) from
Michael Gove, 15th September.
14 October 2010