51 (146) 2021

Green for Glasgow, Green for Good

Building a green school

By Tom McGrath, principal, British Primary School of Wilanow
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From an ecological point of view there are many contradictions in the very nature of international schools. Their growth is linked to the globalisation of the economy; the movement of goods and services across our planet that contribute to carbon emissions. Schools themselves often have pupils who commute distances, many of whom are driven to school, and of course, school buildings consume electricity, gas and water, utilities that also add to the carbon footprint.

However, there are many things that schools can do to address the ecological challenges that face the world. The most important of these is to raise awareness, interest and responsibility for the climate and to engage pupils in coming up with solutions.

Working with pupils at BSW we have come up with ecological solutions to reduce, reuse and recycle. In our canteen we have almost completely eliminated single-use plastic. Pupils eat with proper cutlery and crockery that is washed and reused. We have come up with a composting scheme where all raw fruit and vegetable skins are collected and added to the compost heap. We have developed a small garden area where the compost is mulched and used as an organic fertiliser. In our kitchens we have worked to source food as locally as possible with a seasonal flavour to reduce our carbon footprint.

We are at the final design phase in a newly planned building extension that will more than double the size of our current school. With our architect we are working to integrate green solutions in this design that will make our school more ecologically friendly and will also make economic sense. Increasing natural light, ensuring appropriate insulation, investigating renewable energy sources are all ways that we can address our green responsibility.

One of the most successful projects at BSW has been and continues to be our Forest School. Over a six-week period pupils spend an extended time each week in the forest learning various skills, encountering and observing the flora and fauna of the forest and gaining an appreciation of how these work in harmony. The pupils not only learn these skills but we also observe that they become calmer, more reflective and far more at ease.

Perhaps this is the greatest gift that a school can bestow on their pupils, the appreciation of the beauty and fragility of the natural environment around them.

Tom McGrath has over 25 years’ experience in international education with successful headships in Poland, the Caribbean and Portugal. He joined BSW in 2017.


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