Bristol Education Partnership: inspiring our community towards Net Zero

Fiona Carnie

Bristol Education Partnership Project Lead, Bristol Learning City

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The fourteen secondary schools within the Bristol Education Partnership (BEP) – including 6 members of HMC – are working hard to tackle the climate emergency and are exploring ways of reaching the target of net zero carbon emissions at the earliest opportunity.

The BEP Climate Challenge Project started in 2019 and since then students, staff and school leaders have come together on a number of occasions to report on progress and share ideas. They are working on a variety of projects to reduce energy consumption, encourage active travel, minimise waste, and increase biodiversity on school sites.

Our most recent Climate Challenge conference took place in early November 2023 when students and staff from partner schools met together at Bristol City Hall to report on the commitments they had made at last year’s event. The focus of the day was on helping schools make their work even more impactful and their message even more powerful. In a range of workshops, students explored ways of getting their message across to a wider audience, using film, art, public speaking and research skills.


Across the partnership, we are also looking at how to incorporate Climate Change Education across the Curriculum, with the support of colleagues at the University of Bristol School of Education. Linking classroom practice with research is helpful for teachers in an area where the vast majority have not received any training. In this project teachers are sharing ideas and resources, and learning with and from each other in terms of how to make the work effective in their own settings.

Green careers are also a focus. At a Careers and Sustainability event in May, organised in partnership with the University of the West of England, BEP students learned about the wide range of careers in the green sector, the need for all jobs to take account of sustainability principles and the skills that will be needed in the future. A number of local employers came along to talk to students about the ways in which the world of work is changing in response to the climate emergency.

A further strand of work is building on our concern with food provision and education. Supporting schools to introduce more locally produced, sustainably farmed, seasonal and nutritious food benefits whole school communities as well as local businesses. But it can be challenging for schools to make this shift. Having the support of the Sustainable Food Trust and The Harmony Project is helping those in schools who have responsibility for this area to think deeply about the kinds of changes that are needed. We are also aware of the importance of educating young people about where their food comes from and the benefits of eating healthily.

Lots of progress is being made across the Partnership with students at all partner schools taking a leading role. Whilst young people are aware of the challenges and the barriers, they are actively looking at ways of overcoming these in imaginative ways. But there is clearly much more to do, and they cannot, and should not, be expected to do this on their own.

The value of schools meeting together to discuss progress and plans for the future is clear. Through discussion and collaboration students and staff draw on each other’s ideas and this helps with building motivation, creating a shared sense of purpose, and providing an added impetus for change.

Bristol City Council is a leader in tackling the climate emergency having committed to reaching Net Zero by 2030. Bristol Education Partnership schools, their staff and their young people are playing an important part in contributing to this goal – and our work is being recognised nationally and internationally. BEP was shortlisted for an international UN award recognising excellent practice in education for sustainability and we were invited to contribute to a UNESCO webinar in the run up to COP28. What’s more, we were delighted to be visited by Jonathan Dewsbury, Chief Sustainability Officer for the Department for Education earlier this year. After having spoken to BEP staff and visited partner schools Jonathan said:

Bristol is clearly doing some inspirational stuff and it has given me lots to challenge back at DfE about our approaches. I learnt so much and had some great conversations.
Jonathan Dewsbury, Chief Sustainability Officer for the Department for Education

Find more information about BEP’s Climate Challenge here.

The Bristol Education Partnership (BEP) is a collaboration between 14 secondary schools, 6 of which are members of HMC, and three strategic partners, the University of Bristol, UWE and Bristol City Council.

More information about the BEP can be found on their website here, or via their X feed @bristoledup here.


1 December 2023