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City College Plymouth: Student and staff engagement

Case Study

March 11, 2024

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A further education institution taking a lead on Education for Sustainable Development through the Responsible Futures programme


We’re delighted to work with City College Plymouth on Responsible Futures, a support change programme and accreditation partnering students with their institutions to embed sustainability in learning.

City College Plymouth joined the programme in September 2023, having already had some really positive outcomes using SOS-UK activities, such as Hedgehog Friendly Campus, SDG Teach-In and Teach the Teacher campaigns. Gemma Hutchings, Access to HE Programme Manager and institutional lead for Responsible Futures (RF) said Gemma also had enjoyed several online training sessions delivered by SOS through her work as a Green Rep with the University College Union. The college was already following the FE Climate Road Map and wanted to develop their approach to sustainability to focus on student engagement through Responsible Futures.

Student and staff engagement with Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a key aspect of Responsible Futures. City College Plymouth have highlighted a range of different ways this is engagement is being progressed at the college.

Gemma told us, “We have formalised the sustainability student group within our student council and work closely with the students there. We have recently completed our curriculum mapping training and audit, which was well attended, and students and staff all enjoyed an ESD workshop as part of our support day. Students have been key i in developing our plans for March SDG Teach-In and we now offer a sustainability-based work experience package for 16-18 year olds”.

Students, SOS-UK staff and Gemma after their RF support session on ESD

Staff engagement with sustainability and ESD has also been encouraged. City College Plymouth:

  • Has a group of 50 sustainability champions from all areas of the college.
  • Offers Carbon Literacy Training (currently a bronze award holder) and staff training at every staff training day.
  • In March, is offering a wide range of workshops and activities and are looking forward to many of these being for both staff and students.
  • Is working on projects such as 'Living Labs' for the next academic year

There is also a strong focus on biodiversity on campus. The College is developing its biodiversity strategy with partnerships with Pollenize Plymouth (bee hives) which have live video feeds from the hive to the college café. Students have produced hedgehog houses and bee artwork, and there is a wildflower meadow to provide forage for the bees. Staff and students work on a butterfly garden and an edible garden and work with community partnerships in the form of local farms and tree planting charities.

In January 2024, a member of the Responsible Futures team visited the college to deliver a workshop for staff introducing the role of education in sustainability and ESD, and how ESD can be practically implemented across the College. The workshop ended with facilitated discussion to get staff exploring how they can embed ESD in their roles.

Juli from City College Plymouth during an ESD session, facilitated by SOS-UK.
Being part of the Responsible Futures framework is amazing. Having a network of other institutions, many of whom have been with RF for some time, is incredibly inspiring and the RF team is super supportive. Using the framework really helps to focus our plans and initiatives and encourages us to think about some of the trickier challenges in a new and different ways. – Gemma Hutchings

City College Plymouth is a strong champion for bringing together their students and staff to embed sustainability in learning in the FE sector. It has been a pleasure to welcome the College and its staff and students to Responsible Futures and support their leadership in this area.