Whole Institution Approach to Sustainability – A ‘How To’ Guide

Whole Institution Approach

SEEd has been at the forefront of promoting Whole Institution Approaches to Learning for Sustainability (LfS) for 20 years, leading alliances to support this work, and have enabled (through design, collaborations, dissemination or workshops) other countries to adapt their own Whole Institution LfS frameworks, such as Canada, Australia, Mexico, Columbia, Cyprus, Japan, Brazil, and Greece.

The evidence shows whole school approaches to learning for sustainability deliver increased student engagement, better learning outcomes across all subjects, more motivated students, support for the school from the wider community, and a sustained programme even with staff turnover.

Want to know more? 

There are many whole school or whole institution approaches – some are awards, some are based on standards. The SEEd model is based on a developmental learning model made transparent for students and staff. As such, it does not rely on anyone being an expert!

You can view our Backgrounder to Whole Institution Approach to Learning for Sustainability here.

What is in the SEEd model?

SEEd’s model is a practical, tested approach that models a learning approach to sustainability ( not being perfect!) and enables year on year improvement. This process will help you explore new ways of thinking that involves the whole community surrounding your school or organisation to effect a culture change towards Sustainability. It’s tried and tested, effective and efficient:

  • Download our free Whole School/Institution Approach Outline Framework – with 5 domains: Governance, Estate, Procurement, Curriculum, Community/stakeholders,
    Action learning/research – you will already be doing some of this!
  • Bring together all stakeholders within your institution to participate in filling in the framework.
  • Start where people are now and gather information about existing sustainability projects ie Appreciative Enquiry
  • Audit each year, make new action plans (school improvement plans) and build on what you’ve already achieved.
  • This process is flexible, so you can use whatever other programmes or tools you like as part of this model – more resources can be found here.

Can we get help?

  • Our mentors and are available to help and support you through this process. We can advise on next steps and run workshops with your teams.
  • Sign up to the Sustainable Schools Alliance Network where you will be able to network and speak to other institutions going through their Whole Institution process. Join the Sustainable Schools Alliance by becoming a Member of SEEd – for just £100 per year we will be able to provide you with guidance, ideas and feedback on the work you’re doing. Sign up for SEEd Membership.

Where do we start?

  1. Run our online SEEd Youth Listening Project Surveys with all stakeholders in your institution to give you a baseline of understanding, attitudes and motivations. If you want your data back, contact us beforehand and we will give you a code and then send your data back to you. Please contact us if you want a copy of the survey beforehand for your pupils. 2000 have already filled this survey in!
    There are three surveys for you to use:
    • Pupils under 12
    • Young People 12-25
    • Adults 26+
  2. Think about your vision, objectives and ways that you will work to embed sustainability in your school.
  3. Download the Whole School/Institution Preparation document to help you prepare for your first audit. Then decide who you need to speak to – it could be a few people to get you started or the whole school. You will be surprised who is interested and who is thinking about this – they are your allies and will help you do this successfully. Then fill in the audit here, and share it with your stakeholders to gather as much information as you can. We will send you audit results back to you. We are happy to discuss your year on year progress with you, compare you with others and offer advice and SSA network ideas and support.
  4. Engage everyone! The more people you involve in this process, the more invested your whole institution will be in becoming more sustainable. Many minds working together can create fantastic ideas to move your institution forward positively and sustainably. You could do some visioning exercises and rich text pictures to start thinking about what you would like your institution to look like in the future – say 2030.
  5. Create your Action Plans for what you can realistically do next year – you might have such a planning process in place already e.g. School Improvement Plans, or School Development Plans or other institutional plans. Remember set targets and decide who is responsible ( not just one person!) and what will you do if you hit barriers.
Rich text picture
Rich text pictures can help you envisage what you would like your institution to look like in the future

How do we know it’s working?

  • Your first year is a baseline of both attitudes/understandings through the survey and practice through the audit.
  • After that you can monitor and evaluate the changes year on year.
  • Join the Sustainable Schools Alliance to share ideas, good practice and keep challenging yourselves
  • Keep up the communication between stakeholders. Decide what has gone well and what could be improved.
  • Celebrate your achievements! Every step towards more Sustainable practice plays its part in transforming the whole institution and helps young people learn how to live and work sustainably.

If your school is interested in signing up to be a part of this programme, please contact admin@se-ed.org.uk.