Wednesday 26th November was one of those typical grey drizzly days that makes you yearn for some summer sun, but today it didn’t matter because today I was getting out of the office and catching a train bound for Lancaster and the local schools Eco-Vision Summit. The event was organised by Ripley St Thomas School in Lancaster - although it would be fairer to say it was organised by Oscar Thyne a 6th Form student at the school, whose passion and energy were instrumental in getting the event off the ground.
Oscar not only managed to bring together six schools from across Lancaster, Morecambe and the Wyre, ranging from year 7 to year 13 – to discuss sustainability, but he also managed to secure Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Network, Tom Bartlett from the Eco-Schools Team and my good self as speakers. In addition, members of the Transition Lancaster Network were present in the audience.
Other schools attending were Lancaster Girls Grammar School, Morecambe High, St Aidens CE Technology College, Bury CE High School and Our Lady’s Catholic College.
The summit was a resounding success and there were some notable highlights that stood out for me namely:
Oscar’s vision in imagining the event in the first place, combined with his hard work and influence to bring it to fruition, plus his expert compering on the day. Often success just needs one individual to light a fire under others and Oscar certainly fits into that bracket.
The knowledge of the students present and their willingness to ask questions of the speakers and also during the workshop sessions in the afternoon
The willingness of students to get up in front of the audience and present back their top ideas for promoting greater co-operation between local schools on sustainability - in a wonderfully clear and articulate manner
The willingness of teachers to share their experience of facilitating Eco-Schools within a secondary school setting and the challenges involved in managing their time and engaging other teachers and organisations in support
The desire on behalf of the student to see their previous work on sustainability within their primary schools maintained and developed with a secondary school setting
The fabulous idea of having a shared community resource for schools where trees and crops could be planted and jointly managed by schools in the area as a community resource
However, perhaps most rewarding was the desire to develop a sustainable schools network - beginning with the six schools attending the event on the day. Top ideas included development of a website for sharing blogs and updates on progress within each of the schools, together with repeating the Eco-Vision conference every six months – hosted by a different school each time – and allowing students and teachers to come together and share their ideas and learning around sustainability and develop new initiatives.
I believe that locally developed sustainable school networks are a brilliant mechanism for harnessing the enthusiasm and passion of students and teachers. They encourage mutual support and learning, whilst providing a route for sharing of good practice and the ability to progress more effectively towards the Eco-Schools Green Flag Award.
Oscar’s vision was to use the summit as a means of building a sustainable legacy to preserve the work of the Ripley St Thomas Eco-Committee – and more broadly within other schools around the local area.
I think it’s fair to say he achieved his goal.
My thanks to Oscar and everyone at Ripley St Thomas for being such warm hosts and to all of the students and teachers from the other schools for their enthusiasm and ideas on the day.