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Youth Focal Points visit Manchester Academy

April 26, 2024
Will Wale and Jodie Bailey-Ho

In April 2024 we visited Manchester Academy, a United Learning secondary school in Moss Side, Manchester, to talk with to their students about their experiences of learning about sustainability. Speaking with young people is a really crucial part of our role as DfE Youth Focal Points for the Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy, as we gather youth feedback to support the implementation and development of the department's work on sustainability. We were also excited to learn about the ground source heat pump and solar panels that the school is having installed.

We were greeted by the principal James Eldon, who spoke to us about the fantastic work the school has been doing. The heat pumps are nearly complete, and are being constructed out the back of the school onto the field. Seeing the scale of the pumps, and the size of the heat storage pool was really impressive, and in many ways it was really surprising just how enormous they were!

It was really interesting to discuss the many challenges Manchester Academy faces, not just with sustainability but also how it allocates resources, funding and teacher time more generally. The school is in an area with very high indices of multiple deprivation, with many students on free school meals, and it was really interesting to learn how Manchester Academy has been able to install heat pumps given the many other challenges it faces.

The young people we spoke with, who were in Year 10, were very interesting to listen to. It was really interesting to see how although they had developed a reasonable understanding of the greenhouse effect and were covering some effects of climate change in their Geography GCSE curriculum, the content they had studied was very much limited to Geography and Science. What was particularly interesting was that even though they had studied the industrial revolution in their History lessons, they struggled to link this to their understanding of the greenhouse effect. It was also interesting seeing how the young people were able to recognise many extreme weather events as the products of climate change, but wanted to learn more about how to understand the mechanisms that drove these events. We reflected on the impact of climate change on the heritage countries of many of the young people we met, and discussed the Dubai floods amongst other extreme weather events.

We are really looking forward to presenting our findings at our next meeting with Baroness Barran, minister for the School System, when we will be bringing her back to Manchester Academy. We’re looking forward to discussing the impact the heat pumps are having and the savings the school will make, and also what the young people thought of the sustainability education they had received so far.