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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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The Sustainable Schools Program in Victoria

Conrad Remenyi
Targeted Initiatives Unit, Department of Education and Training, Victoria

The Sustainable Schools Program in Victoria aims to assist schools to contribute to government targets for ecologically sustainable development, and, by adopting effective practices, to model co-operative community action. This article draws on material provided by the Gould League and the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (CERES).

Victoria's Sustainable Schools Program commenced in 2003 as a pilot program at 81 schools. A total of 120 schools are expected to be involved in the pilot when it ends in December 2004.

The Program is jointly funded by the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Heritage and the Victorian Department of Education and Training. The Victorian Department of Education and Training manages the program. The Gould League and the Centre for Environment Research in Environmental Strategies (CERES) were engaged to help schools and their communities implement the program.

The Department of Education and Training will also manage an independent evaluation of the pilot program. The results will inform strategic development of a state-wide approach to environmental sustainability, and a national program based on schools as models of green technologies and design.

What the Sustainable Schools Program does

The Sustainable Schools Program provides a framework for schools to develop their own actions for environmental sustainability. It provides a twelve-step process for involving all sectors of the school community:
  1. Introduction to sustainability
  2. Collecting baseline data
  3. Making a whole school commitment
  4. Forming a committee
  5. Conducting an assessment/audit
  6. Setting goals and targets
  7. Developing a policy
  8. Developing action plans
  9. Developing curriculum plans
  10. Implementing actions & curriculum plans
  11. Monitoring and evaluating the program
  12. Building community links.
Participating schools undertake five professional learning modules to help them to set up a plan and develop the curriculum to suit their local needs. Four of the modules address major issues associated with education for ecological sustainability: waste, energy, water and biodiversity. They are designed to assist schools to decrease the consumption of resources and reduce waste and litter, and also to adopt energy-wise behaviours, focus on wise use of water and contribute to an increase in biodiversity.

These modules are underpinned by an initial module that focuses on ways to
  • facilitate partnerships with education departments, local governments, regions, community groups, State sustainability departments and agencies
  • refer schools to existing educational organisations, networks, resources and programs to help each school to become an informal information hub for teachers
  • build on each school's past achievements in education for sustainable development and provide recognition of prior achievement
  • develop case studies for access by other schools and State agencies
  • provide networking and cluster opportunities for schools, teachers and students.
A comment from the assistant principal of one participating school reflects the strength of the program:
The entire program has meant a paradigm shift in thinking (and doing) with regard to our environment across the entire school community and inspired many with life long learning strategies. At [our] school our motto is 'Caring and Innovative' and the philosophy behind Sustainable Schools parallels closely with what we value in our school community.


Subject Headings

Curriculum planning
Education policy
Educational planning
Environmental Education
Sustainable development