Picture by Mikal Ludlow Photography. 28-6-23

I have really enjoyed working with the students of Arden Academy, Solihull and their hugely  supportive teacher, Ellie Blenkinsop.  

Their story is one of commitment and leadership in engaging with climate action. The Arden students have seized the opportunities offered to them (through ICN and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council) and approached them with great gusto. Ellie is an inspiration and through her encouragement, the students have had many experiences they otherwise would not have had. At school, they have successfully raised the profile of tackling climate change and have worked hard to plan and deliver school-wide campaigns.  

Our relationship with Arden began a number of years ago and students from the school have attended all our Climate Conferences in Solihull Council Chambers since then. That they have made this an annual event and not a one off reflects their level of commitment to understanding and engaging with the issues.  

It is also a testimony to the dedication of their teacher who ensures that her students attend these and our other events. These are busy and burdened times for staff and students alike. I also know some of the logistics required and red tape that teachers have to get through when organising offsite visits.  

Arden were one of the first schools to carry out our Climate Action Survey in 2022 and we stayed connected with them via a series of online workshops which provided focus and helped shape their climate action plans.

Picture by Mikal Ludlow Photography. 28-6-23.

The culmination of this work with Arden was an in-person Climate Action Event at Benefact House, Gloucestershire in June 2023. A lead group of eight students and their teacher came via minibus (and they were not just down the road) to join other students from schools in Gloucestershire and Bristol.  

During the day, the young people and accompanying adults worked alongside other schools and practitioners to explore how to incorporate behaviour change approaches into their climate action campaigns focussing particularly on communication and audience insights. Benefact Group staff and representatives from Gloucestershire Youth Climate Group, Planet Cheltenham and Save the Children UK shared their specific skills and offered real-world insights.  As a finale, the student groups presented their campaign ideas to a ‘Dragon’s Den’ panel made up of ‘experts’ from the participating organisations.  

From the feedback we received from the Arden attendees, it was clear that the Benefact House event was a big thing for them. All felt more confident to deliver campaigns back in school as a result. They also enjoyed the tour of Benefact House described as ‘one of Gloucestershire’s first fully eco-friendly buildings’. 

Ellie has always expressed her gratitude for the opportunities that we have offered the students. 

You guys have been great to work with and we really appreciate the opportunities that we have had from you guys!

Teacher – Arden Academy, Solihull
Picture by Mikal Ludlow Photography. 28-6-23.

Luckily, Arden leapt at the chance to present their Eco Club’s work at the Solihull Climate Conference in December. In addition to their positive experience at the Gloucestershire event, the Leaders of Solihull Council, council staff, students and teachers from six other local schools also heard about some of their other significant achievements. We love the reward they organised for their Active Travel campaign and other schools are keen to copy this idea! In their words: 

  • Throughout 2022 and 2023, select members of our Eco Club participated in the Active Travel Ambassadors Programme. In this entire process, we conducted multiple surveys with over 800 responses, and we designed a campaign aimed at Years 7 and 8 focused on getting students to Park and Stride to school. As a reward for our competition, we hired an ice cream truck for the winners who got a whole afternoon off-timetable. 
  • Recently, we noticed that litter in our school and local community was starting to become a problem so we have teamed up with ‘Love Solihull’ to start doing local litter picks in our school and wider community. We now have a dedicated litter pick every week, picking up over 10KG each week. 
  • Not so long back, we met with our School’s Leadership Team about some of our future goals including partnerships with our feeder Primary Schools, more recycling bins and a specialised water machine (to reduce plastic water bottles). We are proud to say that we have already completed one of these initiatives and are endeavouring to commit to all of them over the next few years.  

Congratulations to Arden Eco Club for their vision, hard work and excellent progress towards their goals. They have shown what is possible through sustained engagement and enthusiastic participation and the support of one dedicated teacher. Irrepressible. Fine role models indeed.  

Rachel Shepherd 

May 2024