Climate change is already impacting Londoners. In the coming decades, climate change will cause more frequent and widespread flooding, scarcity of water resources, and increased heat risk. Many schools face significant challenges in taking action to protect themselves due to constrained financial resources, competing priorities, ageing buildings, and skills barriers. How can schools adapt to safeguard the learning and wellbeing of students and staff?
The Greater London Authority (GLA) commissioned Arup to develop tailored guidance for London schools on the measures they can take to adapt to climate change. We carried out desk-based research and stakeholder engagement with the London school and early years community, and developed an adaptation planning approach for schools. This included a catalogue of physical changes that can be implemented across the school site, as well as recommended operational and behavioural change measures, and opportunities for funding and further support.
Our ambition was to help schools to protect themselves against changes in our climate, whilst simultaneously contributing to a thriving, resilient and connected school community. Read the final guidance here.
3,000 schools in London
22%of London schools are at high risk of flooding
25physical adaptation measures detailed
One size does not fit all
An Edwardian school located on a space-constrained site in the city centre and a modern school situated in a leafy suburb are likely to experience quite different susceptibilities to climate risks and will have different options at their disposal to address climate change. We conducted interviews with schools, which affirmed this hypothesis. The main objective was to recommend actions for schools that would make the most difference in their unique circumstances, whilst retaining general applicability for all London schools. Our approach guides schools through a climate risk assessment to help them understand their particular vulnerabilities and identify the most appropriate options to address them.
The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the UK, with London experiencing particular extremes of heat and water scarcity over recent years. Children are highly vulnerable to such extreme conditions, and existing school sites are rarely designed or operated with climate change in mind. This guidance will help school leaders to adapt their estates, to protect the health and wellbeing of school communities in the face of climate change, and to nurture a generation of future climate leaders. ” Laura Frost Associate - Energy and Climate Change, Arup
Drawing on inputs from specialists across Arup’s energy and climate change, building engineering, landscape design and building physics teams, we identified three school building typologies, and have indicated the cost, space requirements, impact and wider benefits for each adaptation measure, helping schools to identify the most suitable options for their site.
Understanding how schools can take action
London schools can have differing governance structures across Local Authorities and school types (community schools, faith schools, academies etc.). These nuances influence the way that schools make decisions, and in turn the opportunities available for integrating climate adaptation into their processes and plans, including operational and maintenance practices, capital project portfolios, risk assessments, behavioural initiatives, and critical response plans.
We held interviews with head teachers and school business managers to help us develop guidance that aligned with these decision-making processes, and highlight opportunities to enhance existing structures to bring about change whilst minimising time and cost. This included integrating adaptation into existing capital project plans and adapting risk assessments for extreme weather events.
Working in partnership with Arup’s professional team was stimulating and enjoyable. I hope the Guidance will protect children from the negative impacts of climate change. ” Annette Figueiredo Principal Policy and Programme Officer, GLA
Educate for resilience
Part of our guidance synthesises readily available educational resources on climate change risks and adaptation, that can be integrated across key stages of the school curriculum, and a wide range of subjects. This will help build an understanding of climate change impacts and adaptation at an early age to nurture a generation of future climate leaders and build the resilience of our communities.
The guidance was endorsed by the deputy Mayor of London, Shirley Rodriguez, and launched by the GLA in August 2020 as part of package of programmes to build resilience to climate change impacts and protect London’s most vulnerable residents.
Our approach on this piece of work can can be transferred to help deliver similar guidance at early stages and during implementation within the public sector, such as hospitals and university campuses through detailed analysis and evauation of building types.