Alleyn's at COP26

There are all sorts of reasons why I was enormously excited to be invited to speak at the New York Times climate hub, the sustainable education event which sat alongside the more conventional COP 26 activities in Glasgow this week.

Firstly, it’s a huge honour for our school to be invited to be part of a panel discussion about how we should be educating to reflect the climate priorities and how we can best prepare our young people, wherever they are in the world, to be the problem solvers of the future. 

Secondly, it’s a great opportunity to share ideas, learn from others and understand what kind of innovative ideas are currently taking shape in the world of sustainable education. I’m looking forward to sharing some of these with the Alleyn’s community in the weeks and months to come.

Thirdly, it feels like there are few more pressing or more important issues for us all to be discussing. It may be urgent and challenging but what has been exciting about this addition to the COP programme is that it is so very much about hope and possibility. And therefore, it’s resonated with optimism and the power of the human spirit. These are the themes most strikingly evident up here and that I see in our students on a daily basis at Alleyn’s, often, most particularly in our junior students. I think if they were here, they would take this town by storm!

Fourthly, it’s been very jolly to be part of what it turns out is quite a major Alleyn’s  posse up here in Glasgow. I know of at least 10 highly impressive alumni (some of them pretty recent alumni) who are up at COP because of their monumental work on the environment and climate protection. Meanwhile, my panel session was (brilliantly) chaired by former Alleyn’s  parent, Sophie Lambin and there are two current Alleyn’s Sixth Form students Suraya Williams and Geneva Kirk Drayson coming up to COP this weekend as part of a prize for their submission to a national competition to find solutions on our dependence on fossil fuels.

And finally, on top of all of that, the magical venue which housed our education debate was transformed by the most wondrous installation called the “conference of the trees”. This was created by another Alleyn’s parent, Es Devlin, and speaking in it made us all feel as if we had landed by some astonishing twist of good fortune in the Elven paradise of Rivendell!

So, it’s been lovely to be up here particularly with such a strong  Alleyn’s  contingent, flying the flag, joining the debate, discussing the issues and weighing up possible solutions together. A bit like a normal school day in fact!

My comments in the panel discussion focused on three main areas, the need for our pupils to connect with the issue - to link their engagement and passion with everyday action and behaviour change; for us to help them develop a sense of agency and efficacy; what they do matters and recognising that every little bit really contributes to the power of the whole. And the critical importance of emphasising the fun and optimism and sense of possibility in finding solutions and responding to the challenges ahead of us. Nothing is achieved if children are frightened or stressed or consumed by rage. But if it’s fun and creative and different, children will always remember it and take it to heart. And that too sounds not unlike a typical day at Alleyn’s junior school! 

Mrs Jane Lunnon, Head of Alleyn’s School