2020 has been a year to remember and a year to forget. If it has taught us anything, it is that we need to look after each other and the local area where we live. We are all looking forward to a new year and a fresh start. The 2020 global pandemic has affected us all in so many ways. As the manager, and as a school there have been many challenges. But there have also been many surprise gifts amid the difficulties. The year 2020 has changed us, and we have met the challenge with new strategies for a better, kinder and much much greener school here at Express English College Manchester
Our English School in Manchester has changed, and it has changed for the better. We have had to change the way we work, and one of the amazing ways in which we have one this, is by working with the need to address environmental issues. This was part of our future business strategy, but it happened quicker this year, and we are better for it as a school.
Manchester, has signed a pledge to meet its environmental targets in its Race to Zero. There are a host of strategies being put in place in the city, a million pound tree planting campaign, a net zero new building plan and a commitment to the Bee Network, to improve the routes for cycling and walking to the city.
Traditionally, schools need paperwork and are heavily reliant on books.
Our school is aiming now in the next 3 months, to be a zero paper school, neither in the classroom nor the office. We have put a company-wide digital strategy in place. This started out because we needed to during the pandemic. Now because it is working so well, its because we want to. For a while, we worked from home, so we could not share information, lessons or books with other people on paper, only digitally.
We had to overcome obstacles as a school. The teaching of English, up until recently has been a place where we have all been using too much paper. Go to any English school and stand by the photocopier and you will see the amount of paper that is left after a teacher has frantically copied work for the class. Visit the house of any English teacher, and you will see the amount of papers and books piled up in the corner. Not anymore, and certainly, not here at Express English College. This year the spring clean, has happened before the spring and by Easter time, around March or April, we aim to be totally paper free.
The Digital Bookshelf
It is tradition in the UK, that when the spring arrives, you throw open your windows, take in the warmer air, and clean your house from top to toe, throwing anything you do not need away. We have done it early this year, and we are ready for a new season. We have emptied our bookshelves including the staff room one. We still have a library of amazing books, but now we have a digital bookshelf, for the staff and for the students, in collaboration with Cambridge. Students have their own tablet and digital book. Teachers have their own interactive whiteboard and teaching tool.
We have implemented the CLMS (Cambridge Learner Management System). This means we can check homework, do tests at the end of the week, collect the results, and let learners work at their own pace. It means we do not have to hand out papers, that get lost in the bottom of your bag, your bedroom or on your desk. But what it really means is, we are not wasting paper. And that feels really good. Because, as we are all realising, the world can be a fragile place, and we need to look after it, and look after each other, and even more important, our children and the next generation.
We are going to use an app to convert any pages to PDF, from any books that we still like, or are relevant to teaching English well. Then we are aiming to send that to our students, by a secure email. That way, we do not waste the books we have, and we can share them digitally and safely. All our teachers have a laptop, tablet and an interactive whiteboard. We are not wasting plastic on marker pens which end up in the bin, or lost in the school. Our students can have a tablet to work on, if they do not have their own laptop.
Our staff all have their own computer and access to all the documents and policies online, as well as teaching materials. Our HR system and accounting system is virtual. There is absolutely no need for our staff members either teaching or at admin and managerial level tuse paper at work. It is still a work in progress, and we are building up to the finale. Don’t worry, if you still like paper, you can bring a notebook and we can provide a paper text book on request, but we have a three month target in 2020 to be a zero paper school. I hope we can do it.
We have a water fountain, and we ask students to bring their own water bottle with them. If preferable, a glass one. That way, we don’t have a mountain of plastic cups in the bin at the end of the day. We all know what damage that is doing to our seas and the fish that we eat. Its also less to clear up at the end of the day, and leaves the focus clear for extra cleaning for the school in other areas which is really important right now.
Our student Welfare Handbook, has a section on how to cycle safely in the UK. We realise that this is a student lifestyle choice and not for everyone. You have to be a competent cyclist to do this in the UK. The city has developed some Dutch style cycle lanes and Mancunians are cycling more and more. We also organise a trip where the students can go to a race track, not on the road, but in a local park with the group and learn to ride a bike if they can’t already.
If the other students can ride, they can try some adventurous bikes which can take passengers. (It can be a bike with 3 wheels which is easier to ride!) There are bikes for everyone to enjoy. It’s a way of having fun, and introducing our students to a greener lifestyle, is they so choose whilst getting fit, and learning English.
Our company is also working on implementing a Cycle to Work Scheme, where staff can pay a monthly amount from their salary before tax is taken off, and buy a really good quality bike to get to work, thus a greener way to arrive, whilst also reducing the price of the bike by taking if from their salary before tax is paid. It also reduces the carbon footprint of the staff, and keeps them healthy.
There is a community garden nearby, if staff or students want to get involved. There with you can learn to grow some local vegetables, we can arrange some sessions with the project workers there. It is a co-operative and all the people who work there put the profits back into the community and into projects working with young people.
Where possible, we use ethical and green suppliers in relation to our school and we recycle all our old electrical appliances by donating them to charities in the area who could benefit or reuse them and sell them on for profit.
The school has started to compile a list of local business that are green and friendly to work with as approved suppliers and perhaps as useful places for students to visit if they want a greener lifestyle and to reduce the carbon footprint by using local produce. This is a work in progress and all staff can nominate or put forward a business to be added to the list.
All in all, as a small school in a cosmopolitan city, we are not going to save the world in one day. But it is a start, and it feels so right. It makes life better for everyone, and it actually makes life more efficient as well as green. We are slowly implementing these policies step by step. Once you get used to the idea that you do not need paper to work and cars to get to school or to learn, it is actually really easy. Of course the option is still there; we have books for those who need it, but as a school, we are trying to make the paper book the exception rather than the rule.
We are after all, one planet, one human race, and we all have to do a little to contribute to limit the damage we are having on the earth. Step by step, we are implementing these plans, and the effects are a happier, more holistic environment in which to learn English and to work. It’s a win win situation. We feel happier because we are treating the world a little better. And at the same time, we are teaching people a skill for life, English.Tags: English College, English Language Learning Manchester Green School, english school, StudyngintheUK