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Home » Blog » Schools champion Sustainability during SustFest Schools Week 2023

Schools champion Sustainability during SustFest Schools Week 2023

Pupils at Fleetville Infants' and Nursery filling new planters during SustFest

Schools in St Albans, Harpenden and the villages have been eco-organising to celebrate our annual SustFest Schools Week, part of the wider Sustainability Festival (SustFest). 

Our blog comes from volunteers from our Sustainable St Albans Sustainable Schools Group. The group of local volunteers supports schools across St Albans district all year round and encourages schools to get involved in the annual SustFest Schools Week.

Hundreds of children aged between 4 and 18 from all over the district got involved with SustFest during a special SustFest Schools Week from 12th to 16th June. Primary and Secondary Schools organised a variety of eco-activities, contributing to the district’s efforts to tread more lightly on the planet. In many schools, pupil eco-groups took the lead, planning activities and encouraging their fellow students and families to make changes to their lives at home and at school.

Gardens for nature as well as for students

Many of the district schools used SustFest Schools Week to turn their attention to their schools grounds’ role in improving habitat and biodiversity.

At Sandringham School, students and staff improved an on-site wild garden to encourage more diverse species while creating a space for practical education in environmental issues, science and horticulture.

Students and staff transformed the area, creating a sitting circle, clearing the pond, restoring and painting a tool shed, planting a variety of plants and putting up a polytunnel to start growing vegetables and fruit from seed.

Students at Sandringham School working on the wild garden during SustFest
Students at Sandringham School working on the wild garden during SustFest

At Fleetville Infants and Nursery, pupils filled new planters with sensory plants, including colourful, smelly and furry plants.  They also made over their front garden with a veggie patch, pond area and sensory garden (see photo at top of page).

At St Michael’s C of E VA Primary School, the whole school worked together to plant a new sensory garden: classes made bird feeders and wildlife hotels and parents donated funds and tools including a poly greenhouse.

Green lunches

Kids love food so what better way to think and talk about sustainability than by focussing on what we eat and where it comes from?

At Camp School and Nursery, the eco group challenged the school community to reduce single use wrapping in lunchboxes. They made suggestions to their fellow pupils of ‘greener’ alternatives and hope to have changed some habits for good. They said “Our challenge is not about changing everything in our lunches and creating extra work for ourselves, but about seeing if there’s something, even just one thing, we can easily change. We believe that collectively our small changes could make a big impact!” 

Killigrew School trialled a No Waste Lunch challenge. As well as running eco assemblies to encourage participation, the school went a step further to create a dedicated Killigrew eco newsletter and lots of information in the normal weekly Killigrew school newsletter.

Plastic Free

Heathlands School presented an assembly on Plastics in the Ocean and held a single-use-plastic-free day too.

Learning and Loving Trees

Classes from Aboyne Lodge School each chose a tree from the school ground for particular study, learning all about it, its role in supporting wildlife and capturing carbon. Pupils then enjoyed art, literacy, mathematical and science activities linked to their own ‘special’ tree. They also hosted a guest speaker from Friends Of The Earth, who talked about the impact and importance of trees on our climate.

Pupils at Abbey C of E VA Primary School held a Tree Party, celebrating the wonder of trees which included garlanding trees with decorations made from recycled or reused materials.

Litter Picks

Community litterpicks were hugely popular this year, with children grabbing litter from their grounds and beyond at Crabtree Juniors, Crabtree Infants’, St John Fisher, Samuel Ryder and Cunningham Hill Infants. Crabtree went out into the local community to do theirs and collected 3 sacks of waste! It’s great to see the impact school children can have on the wider environment even if the volume of waste is sad to see out there…

Crabtree School litter pick for SustFest23 from Twitter

Books and Banners

Crabtree Schools held a book swap to encourage children to understand that reusing helps to reduce waste.  

Sir John Lawes students made a magnificent banner for Climate Justice which is planned to take pride of place at Glastonbury Festival alongside one from Samuel Ryder Academy.

Sir John Lawes Oxfam Climate Justice Banner 2023 - image from Twitter
Sir John Lawes Oxfam Climate Justice Banner 2023 – image from Twitter


Many of the schools across the District held assemblies to join together the school community and focus on sustainability during the week. 

Loreto College, like many others, used our SustFest Assembly resources while others produced their own assemblies. We were impressed how many students delivered assemblies to their peers, including the children at Killigrew School.

A few lucky schools had visits from one of Sustainable St Albans own Climate Champs, including St John Fisher and Crabtree School. Other schools have them booked in for the future. If you would like one of our Climate Champs to visit your school, please send a message through our contact page.

Loreto College students giving SustFest assembly 2023 from Twitter
Loreto College students giving SustFest assembly 2023 from Twitter

Eco Day/Week

Many schools had an impressive whole “eco day’ or “eco week” for SustFest Schools Week.  

St John Fisher School’s activities included tidying their pond area, planting seeds, raising the profile of recycling around the school, litter picking and launching a campaign to save water. 

St John Fisher pupils and their SustFest water campaign posters

SustFest ran as part of the national Great Big Green Week and Samuel Ryder Academy got very involved – students showed support by adding something green to their uniform. The school said “our students embraced the chance to participate in activities, discussions and various school wide initiatives to promote and celebrate just how we, as a community, are taking action to tackle climate change and protect green spaces. “  Their dedicated Twitter feed @SRA_ecoschool has lots of inspiring pictures including a new sustainability badge designed by a Year 5 student.

Samuel Ryder Academy Primary put together a video about their SustFest23/Great Big Green Week on Twitter

Cunningham Hill infants had a whole Eco week including making seed bombs for a wildflower meadow in their grounds and a ‘no- electricity day’ where the classes did not use lights, computers or any electronic devices. 

St Albans Girls’ School’s activities included digging over the garden beds and planting wildflower seeds to grow and attract wildlife, making art out of natural materials, running a scavenger hunt and making bug hotels. Eco Council Reps also planned a charity stall to raise funds for new planters.

School Events go green

We were delighted to hear from schools whose bigger school events are more sustainable than ever. Links Academy ran a Community Clothing Drive for the whole community on the first Saturday of SustFest.

Beaumont’s Summer Festival (Saturday 24th June) is prioritising single-use plastic. Students will be auditing usage to better inform next year’s planning and have a Sustainability Club stall to encourage correct repurposing and re-usage of plastic cups and bottles.

Events for teachers

Wilder Schools from Wilder St Albans held a session at Skyswood Primary School during the week. Teachers came along to find out about outdoor learning and rewilding school grounds. 

Our own Sustainable Schools group held an online networking meeting for St Albans school teachers, governors and PTA . Discussions focussed on how to plan eco activities for the next academic year.  Jo Heneker of Herts for Learning came along to talk about HfL’s new Network for Sustainability Leads initiative and shared her contact details to find out more information.

Two Local Sustainability Conferences for Schools

And finally, it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge how sustainability is taking centre stage now with dedicated conferences for students happening locally.

Scholars’ Education Trust, including Sir John Lawes School, Samuel Ryder Academy and Harpenden Academy held their 2nd Annual Sustainability Conference on 9th June. 170 students attended, hearing talks and attending workshops at Rothamsted Conference centre. Our own Sustainable St Albans volunteer Isobel Mitchell ran a tree workshop which was very well received. You can read a full report in Sir John Lawes school newsletter.

Poster for the Scholars Education Trust Climate Change Conference 2023
Poster for the Scholars Education Trust Climate Change Conference 2023

The Student Climate Change summit at University of Herts on 13th June was also attended by a number of district schools, including Roundwood Park School, Sir John Lawes, Sandringham School and St Albans Girls School. Students enjoyed workshops and keynote speakers – see Twitter posts such as this for more information

Feeling inspired?

Are you a member of school staff, a governor or on a PTA? To know more about the work of the Sustainable Schools Group in St Albans District including SustFest Schools Week, please sign up to our newsletter using the form on our Schools page here. We send out termly information both about teaching materials and making your school more eco-friendly. 

You can also check out our wider resources at our dedicated pages at Sustainable Schools.

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