Young people and schools in Hackney respond to the climate crisis

School children from climate change protest

A group of Clapton secondary school children visited the climate rally outside Hackney Town Hall during their lunch break, a move inspired by the growing youth eco-movement and its leader Greta Thunberg. 

Des Barrow, a geography teacher at Clapton Girls Academy Secondary School and supporter of the peaceful protest, told EastLondonlines: “For all the years that I’ve had to defend young people against charges of apathy or lack of interest, it is really exciting to see them smashing those stereotypes and setting the agenda,”.  

For Barrow, climate change should be more prominent in the school syllabus. He said that pupils from Clapton Girls Academy school have set up a supervised after-school club programme where participants will go in detail over their plans to help tackle the climate crisis.

Barrow added: “People have been aware for a long time of global warming, of ice caps shrinking, of rainforests disappearing, but the twin movements have forced these issues onto the agenda. Maybe in 1900 you might have had thoughts as an individual that women should have had the vote the same as men, but until there’s a movement that can force the hand it doesn’t matter how passionate you might have been about it.” 

“There is a compartmentalisation, so climate change is this one bit that we teach as climate change, but then there’s all the other stuff like migration or urban challenges, and climate change could be taught and worked into all those things since it’s going to pretty much affect just about everything,” he reasoned. 

Orchard Primary School in Hackney is one of two schools in the borough to be taking part in Eco-active’s waste reduction project. The Eco-Schools Green Flag  is an internationally recognised award for excellence in environmental action and learning. 

Retired teacher Sandra McLeod is a volunteer for Sustainable Hackney’s Education for Sustainability Network and encourages schools to sign up to the free Eco Schools project. 

McLeod said of Orchard School’s involvement: “The idea is they cut down on energy use, they recycle, they save water.

“All the things one should be doing to live sustainably are embedded in the everyday life of the school and the curriculum contains lessons about sustainability. So, if you were teaching history you might take climate change back to the industrial revolution. 

“Everyone at the school should be involved and the message should go out to the whole community, parents and businesses.” 

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