H&F schools lead the way on tackling climate change

If only world leaders took green issues as seriously as Hammersmith & Fulham pupils and teachers!

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Children from Brackenbury primary picking litter

If only world leaders took green issues as seriously as Hammersmith & Fulham pupils and teachers!

Melcombe, Brackenbury, Miles Coverdale and Fulham Cross Academy are among schools leading the way in altering behaviour among pupils, parents and staff to address issues caused by climate change.

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Melcombe primary pupils

Melcombe primary

Anne-Marie Strachan, executive head teacher at Melcombe since April 2021, said that her school had been involved in a string of initiatives, including encouraging parents to walk youngsters to school rather than driving.

Fulham Palace Road, where the school is sited (opposite Charing Cross Hospital) is one of the area’s busiest traffic routes, so pollution is a problem.

Staff member Louise Beanland led a project on evaluating air quality in and around Melcombe, with the school finishing at the mid-point of 50 primaries which took part.

Going back and forwards to school, children wore backpacks with air pollution monitoring devices, with the data then assessed. “They literally wore ‘measuring’ rucksacks to and from school,” said Ms Strachan. “That showed that there were major concerns and, on the back of it, the school received funding of £10,000 to fight poor air quality.”

The money paid for improvements to Melcombe’s garden space, a new greenhouse, gardening lessons and a green wall.

“We’re also encouraging parents not to drive. We want them to walk to school where they can,” added Ms Strachan, who has been in teaching for 25 years, most recently as head of a school in Bromley.

“Melcombe is very much in the city, but instead of walking down Fulham Palace Road, we’re encouraging families to stay away from the main road and walk by the river. I do that; I commute in and I sometimes travel beside the river as it’s so calming, and a time for reflection!”

Before Melcombe, Anne-Marie ran a school in Bromley for just under four years. She still lives in south-east London, and initially drove to school before deciding that she was contributing to the air quality problem, and opted to commute by train instead.

Melcombe is part of the Thames Federation of schools, which sets its goals as empowering pupils with a ‘can do’ attitude. Even nurseries in the group have created pint-sized eco-warriors, to develop climate responsibility among very young children.

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Brackenbury pupils show off their Green Flag

Brackenbury primary

Brackenbury primary in Dalling Road, Hammersmith, recently became the first eduCCate global bronze award winning school in London for climate literacy, and is now working towards the next level.

Head of school Georgina Ross said she was thrilled. “This award is recognition of the fantastic work taking place at Brackenbury to ensure climate change education is a key part of our children’s lives.”

The scheme focuses on addressing health risks to children, with Brackenbury’s teachers using climate education to spread the word. A sustainability team, made up of six staff members including assistant head David Fricker, supports the teaching, with pupils completing carbon footprint buster challenges.

“I found the courses really interesting,” said team member Guy Parker. “I discovered things I didn’t already know and what we can teach the children here, which is really fantastic.”

Brackenbury recently won a green flag award for a two-year climate change initiative which included introducing compost bins, reducing energy use and holding paper-free days.

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Miles Coverdale pupils in the school hall

Miles Coverdale primary

Miles Coverdale primary’s teachers are also on the eduCCate programme, with pupils supporting them by planting bulbs and holding up climate change placards in nearby Godolphin community gardens, to raise awareness.

“Protecting the environment is now second nature for teachers and pupils,” said Miles Coverdale head Tara Baig.

“I’ve seen the passion from children and staff – and it really does affect change.” Pupils are also recycling everything from school uniforms to musical instruments, and regularly clean up waterways as part of the Mudlarks programme.

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Headteacher Sally Brooks with three of her Fulham Cross Academy Trust students planting a tree as part of #PlantALegacy

Fulham Cross Academy

Fulham Cross Academy in Kingwood Road, which is working to accredit its staff via eduCCate. Sally Brooks, executive principal designate, said: “Staff are really positive – and our pupils are keen to share this knowledge at home.”

Boys at Fulham College recently planted trees as part of a Plant a Legacy campaign, use wooden cutlery, have new recycling bins and even wear uniform blazers made from recycled single-use plastic bottles!

It all feeds into H&F’s declaration of a climate emergency, to ensure all council policies include radical action to help improve the area and make H&F the greenest borough in the UK.

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