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Student Sustainability Conference

This year, Mercia Learning Trust's annual conference featured a parallel student conference focussed on school sustainability.

In February, 60 children from our six schools worked with Solutions for the Planet on the problem of 'how can we make our schools more sustainable for the future?'. After a full day of workshops and collaborative work, the students presented as schools to a very impressive panel of experts lined up to analyse and support their findings on the day, including the Mayor of South Yorkshire, Oliver Coppard.

Hear from Matt Ronayne from Solutions for the Planet on how the day went:

In February 2023, Mercia Learning Trust tasked Solutions for the Planet to run their first student conference alongside their annual Festival of Education. Our aim was to empower 60 students from 6 schools within the Trust to contribute ideas on how their schools can be more sustainable. Throughout the session, we figured out what the schools are already doing well and what they can do to improve and be more sustainable.

At times I forgot I was delivering to a group of young people as they were so professional throughout the session and clearly knew how they would be able to make a difference if given the opportunity. The day began with by us talking through what sustainability meant and making sure we were all on the same page. We discovered that it was our time to be the head teachers of this world and make a difference in reducing our negative impact. We split into two rooms and began to work on the beginnings of an action plan which we would then pass over to the Trust so they can see first-hand what the young people thought and their ideas in how they could improve.

The students ideas were brought together at the end of the day in a celebration in which the young people presented their ideas of how their school could be more sustainable. This ranged from improving the uniforms to considering how we can unite all the schools in the Trust through an eco club that focusses on raising awareness and bringing sustainability into the curriculum. This was presented to a bespoke panel and lots of different attendees from the Trust who chose to come and listen to the young people for the final hour of the day. I am always blown away with how incredible young people are at presenting their ideas and having the confidence to showcase their communication skills. I don’t think at 8 years old I would have been able to persuasively communicate my ideas to a large group of adults.

This event was about putting youth voice at the heart of the Trust’s plan for sustainability – it empowers young people to be part of the conversation and know they have been listened to. The success of this event has opened our eyes to more opportunities to work with schools and trusts to empower youth voice.