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Championing the Environment at COP26 and at School

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

Students at Frensham Heights School, like their peers around the world, are standing up for the environment and their future through their voices and actions at school and beyond.

Young people around the world are gathering momentum in their challenge to society and government to do something about the climate crisis. Students at Frensham Heights are acting at school and beyond to make changes and have their voices heard. Two Sixth Form students were selected by UKSSN (Sustainable Schools Network) to take part in COP26 in Glasgow. Costa in Year 12 gained a place to attend the conference, representing both Frensham and Surrey Schools. Costa connected with many likeminded climatarians and took part in a live-streamed webinar panel alongside a nuclear expert discussing innovation in energy, education and the student experience at COP26.

“Attending COP26 gave me an amazing opportunity to represent my school and students from across Surrey on an international platform. My highlight was meeting the MP and President of COP26, Alok Sharma. I was able to talk to him about the UKSSN’s approach and how young people at Frensham Heights and across Surrey feel about our current climate situation and what we can do to help solve some of the problems. At COP, I learnt far more about the plight of indigenous people, the important role they play in safeguarding biodiversity and how we can learn from them to live more harmoniously with nature.”

- Costa, Year 12 Frensham Heights Student and COP attendee.

Sixth Former Issy was also selected as part of the virtual satellite group of students who took part in the conference virtually. Alongside the real event in Glasgow, Frensham Heights also had a seat at the ZeroCarbon Guildford Mock COP on the 20th November - representing Brazil. They gave a bold and informed opening statement to the country delegates at Guildford Council Chambers. Their questions and answers demonstrated excellent preparation and the ability to think on their feet. It was a fantastic opportunity for students from many schools to come together discussing and negotiating their positions. The Frensham Heights students performed admirably and succeeded in establishing early alliances and making reasonable pledges to find a collective solution to the climate crisis.

"Being on Team Brazil at Mock COP gave me a deeper understanding of different countries’ situations, the difficulties they’ve faced because of climate change and the complexities of finding a solution upon which everyone can agree. For me, the relevance of the Mock COP26 was the realisation that it instigated. By dedicating ourselves to the research of countries' policies, governments, politicians and economies and by attempting realistic negotiation with other nations, you realise how embedded into corruption and bureaucracy our global 'response' to climate change is. You realise that if we want to achieve relief for our planet, urgent adjustment to our efforts is needed. But rather than filling us with scepticism and worry, it should serve as a motivation for our younger generations and passionate public that we are the change of the future, and we must not rely on current policies to save us. Thank you to ZeroCarbon Guildford for making it possible."

Kathleen, Year 13 Frensham Heights Student and Mock COP participant.

Back at school, determination and passion are just as high. Eco issues have been introduced across the curriculum, from Year 5 students writing letters to the local MP offering their voices to the climate debate - to Year 10s considering the importance of social responsibility and government policies in Business Studies - to discussions around renewables in Science - to environmental thinking in A-Level Philosophy. Alongside are dedicated Ecodays for Years 7 to 9 that focus on the local environment and the impact the school community has upon it. Even the school production of Peter Pan is showcasing upcycled sets and costumes.

EcoHeights, the student-led environmental group, keeps interest high and focused - encouraging all students and staff to consider and change the way they use resources and to respect the environment around them. They hold productive discussions with the Estates and Catering teams about food waste, waste disposal and recycling - always focusing on encouraging manageable student, staff and community change. The message being that every little action can make a difference. As a founding member of SEAS (Surrey Environmental Action in Schools) Frensham Heights have also been working with other local schools to find shared solutions to current climate problems.

“It’s been fantastic over the last two years to see our eco initiatives develop and watch our students gain a passion and deeper understanding of the climate crisis we face. As a school, we are passionate about educating our young people about this issue and giving them the understanding and tools to be the changemakers of the future. We want to instil hope in young people who can so often be left despondent, feeling that the climate rhetoric is terrifyingly apocalyptic and another generation’s fault.”

- Amanda McCallum, Frensham Heights Head of Faculty of the Physical World.

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