'Winning awards through commitment to sustainability'

Students from UCS enjoying the school''s allotment

Students from UCS enjoying the school''s allotment - Credit: UCS

University College School (UCS) Hampstead’s commitment to embedding sustainability across its foundation through pupil-led action continues to win individual and collective plaudits for a school increasingly regarded as a best-practice example. 

Signing the Camden School Climate Charter and seeing sixth former Ava Lang lift a Camden Eco Champion Award before Christmas were just two recent fruits of UCS’s productive framework for channelling pupils’ passion for sustainability.

The UCS Foundation – comprising pre-prep (ages 4–7), junior branch (7–11) and senior school (11-18) – was also shortlisted for Sustainable School of the Year 2021 and has since taken further positive steps in the direction of carbon-neutral.

UCS James Firth

James Firth is bringing together sustainable initiatives - Credit: UCS

Since my appointment as the foundation’s environmental impact coordinator, I have orchestrated a long-term sustainability plan, assisted by Sophie Lenton (pre-prep), Penny Casey (junior branch), Kerry Johnson and Kirsty Anthony (both senior school) who facilitate vibrant eco-clubs in all three component schools.

The pre-prep is already certified as an Eco-Schools Green Flag holder, with the junior branch and senior school working hard to follow. One recent competition asked which of the trio could cut their energy usage most, teaching pupils new measures regarding energy efficiency.

We have a foundation-level sustainability working group which meets every half-term to establish priorities such as waste, transport, energy and biodiversity. Pupils sit on this group as well as taking the decision-making lead in the senior school’s 88-member Green Impact Society.  They have pushed recycling rates, including food, up to 75%. They write and produce their own website and magazine.

Meanwhile, the biodiverse school allotment has attained level two status from the Royal Horticultural Society, with pupils now planning a bog garden, butterfly house and beehive.

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One of UCS’s many co-curricular clubs, Green Impact also feeds into the school's enrichment provision with regular guest speakers.

The student body’s intellectual curiosity will certainly be piqued when Green Impact stages a sustainability open evening featuring industry-leading organisations on Thursday, April 21, the eve of World Earth Day.

In partnership with Camden Clean Air, we are bringing together sustainable initiatives or technologies and attempting to engage the wider community in changing things.

James Firth is a geography teacher and the environmental impact coordinator at University College School.