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5 Minute GAP - What do students get out of joining the UK Schools Sustainability Network

Pim and Shreya have been taking part in the UK Schools Sustainability Network, a nationwide collaboration that brings together networks for students to connect and collaborate on issues they care about. Toni spoke with Pim and Shreya about what they have been up to, what they have got out of the experience and what their plans are for sustainability in the future.

You can find out more about the UK Schools Sustainability Network here.


"We Share Freely". The change we want to see in the world is bigger than we are. So, we're sharing our knowledge, resources and ideas to help more people and organisations take steps forward towards our vision of a green and thriving planet, where everyone can enjoy happy and healthy lives within the Earth's limits.


As part of this, we've launched our "5 Minute GAP" series, a collection of five minute conversations that will share how we work and what we're working on. We'll talk about what we're trying to achieve and why, how we function as an organisation, and the thinking behind our plans and strategy.


We'll be regularly sharing these conversations, which will feature different members of our team and trustee board, as well as external experts.


We hope you enjoy listening in to our chats, getting to know our team and finding out what makes us who we are. 



Audio only version:


If you prefer to read rather than watch, the transcription is here: 


Toni: And so far, what has your experience been like? At UKSSN? What do you feel like you've gotten out of it? 

Shreya: Honestly, it's been quite a rewarding experience. I didn't know much about kind of eco initiatives at all, and both myself and Bella were quite scared when we came into it because we thought everyone would know a lot of facts, a lot of kind of articles...would know a lot about the environment, but it was more kind of a learning process and it was...we started getting a lot more opportunities within our school, and it meant that a lot more like students within our school felt more connected and we could actually see that we were having an impact on the environment, not just something that was going on in, you know, on the wider scale, but rather on our school grounds or within our school community. So I think for that reason it was both fulfilling and rewarding, a little bit stressful at times because you get lots of information thrown at you and then you have to cater to what your school can do. But at the same time it was something that was very different to what I'd done before. So overall, very a very positive experience.

Toni: Yeah, that's really nice to hear how it's trickled down back to your school community. What about you Pim? 

Pim: Yeah, I think similarly, like the scope of opportunity itself is kind of like there's so much out there, you've kind of got to be like, okay, wait, I have to filter it down now. I'm kind of like, okay, who can I like refer this opportunity to? And like, it's kind of like, okay, pick and choose. But yeah, I think that like opportunity in itself has been amazing. And the learning experience, learning about the environment in itself has been a lot. And like the processes in government and how that happens, in charities and schools. I think a lot of it has also been like learning about how schools actually work as well. And that's something that you don't really kind of think about before. And then just kind of opportunities and learning in how you work yourself.

Pim: I think it's a lot of like skills that is just something that you need practice from and it's not like you can read a book and suddenly you have good communication skills or good like chairing skills or anything like that. So yeah.

Shreya: Yeah. I have to agree on Pim's point. I think I wasn't very connected to my school, but once you join UKSSN you end up talking to a lot of teachers and teachers that you don't think you'll be talking to, like canteen staff or even your deputy heads, like, you don't think you're going to have that connection as a student. But then you start understanding how the school system works and what you have to do to implement changes. So that was quite surprising as well. So yeah.

Toni: Yeah, that's actually quite interesting to see how it's helped you like integrate better with your school and also that I think you mentioned some of has helped with like your communication skills and transferable skills as well. So you've also mentioned quite a bit about like there's been quite a few opportunities at UKSSN. So what have you both gotten involved in in the last year as part of UKSSN that you really want to talk about and highlight? 

Pim: Yeah. So regionally we've done a couple of like conferences and we've done things with businesses in the area. So we've got like this, um, kind of certificate now for businesses to try and get businesses to achieve their sustainability goals and meeting lots of other students in the area and doing some like short films and things. Like nationally we've done, um, so I've gone to the Department for Education Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy launch, which was very like a very interesting experience to go to. And so also now on the UKSSN board as a external youth representative, I'm in year 13, so alumni soon. Yeah, there's a few, a few of the opportunities that have taken a hold of.

Shreya: Yeah, ours has been quite similar as well. I think one of the highlights of the week which was very stressful period because we had our A-level mocks at the same time, so it was like, ooh, but one of the highlights of the year has to be we did this eco, we did an eco week in around October and we got loads of schools in the local kind of region. 

So in Kingston to come and participate in it. So we had loads of students, around 200 people in the room and we had um, talks by experts. We had it in an environment, in the medical field environment, in the mining field. We had one by Kit Rackley who discussed the IPCC Code Red Report and it kind of trickled down to having a lot of swap shops, litter picks within our area.

We did sustainable wrapping paper, we had lots of talks with the younger years to see what they would like to do, lots of competitions. And I think through that it became a lot more kind of integrated as a school community rather than just individual people trying to support the network. So that was definitely one of the highlights. And then we had the Whytham Woods trip, which was also quite, quite big highlight of the year.