Taking sustainability into further education

Wednesday 13-05-2015 - 15:21

There are many barriers to embedding sustainability across further education, but Responsible Futures is already changing education at Sheffield College.

“Responsible Futures has given us a tool with which to approach the leadership, and get sustainability embedded into our strategic vision”, explains sustainability project manager Val Petersen. “I feel very positive about it”

Val knows the difficulties of promoting sustainability in the college context as well as anyone. With the funding gaps between further and higher education widened by last year’s 24 per cent cut, the staff capacity for sustainability has often gone with the money.

There are dozens of interested and motivated members of staff eager to advance education for sustainability across further education. But there simply isn’t time.

Responsible Futures tackles these problems. It provides an effective framework for empowering staff to reform a college’s approach to teaching and learning.

“In some ways, education for sustainable development has got an even more obvious presence in the FE curriculum and programme”, Val argues. “When you think that FE deals with a lot of vocational training, it's really important that it's embedded into courses and preparing students for working in a low carbon, sustainable economy”.

We can see evidence of that at Sheffield College. Today, the construction department is known as the sustainable construction department, with sustainability built into units around areas like joinery, bricklaying and plumbing.

Responsible Futures has made a massive impact, even in its first year, engaging the highest levels of management with the sustainability agenda.

“The assistant principal is in charge of developing a curriculum strategy for the organisation”, Val explains.

“As a result of Responsible Futures, the strategy will say that to achieve excellence you must include sustainability and social responsibility”.

“That’s a big thing to have achieved”

And not only does it advance sustainability, it’s a framework which brings the whole college together, making the education experience more joined up and holistic.

“It’s allowed us to do a thorough audit of what’s going on in the college”, Val explains.

“It’s quite difficult to know what different parts of the organisation are doing so it’s been a really interesting and useful process to get a coordinated and coherent picture of what’s happening in the college”

At Sheffield College, Responsible Futures has opened the space for cross-college collaboration, and support for sustainability at the highest level. And this is only the first year.

Undoubtedly, there are barriers to promoting sustainability across FE. But as Val’s experience shows, Responsible Futures empowers you to remove them, shaping a bold new educational experience.


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