Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter, ‘Laudato Si’ invites us all to ‘work with generosity and tenderness in protecting the world which God has entrusted to us’. St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School, Milton Keynes, responded to that invitation and launched its LiveSimply action plan last year. Pupils have been learning how to live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with those living in poverty. Cathy Stormonth, CAFOD Education volunteer writes :
“St Bernadette’s has been spending the last year working towards achieving the LiveSimply Award. The three significant areas were:
1) To Live Simply – To develop an outdoor space for prayer and contemplation.
The school built a beautiful prayer garden, designed by the Chaplaincy Team, featuring Our Lady of Lourdes and St Bernadette bought with the generous donation from the Sisters of the Holy Cross. This is used every day for prayer and reflection. The children take great care of this special space and Year 6 pupils have created their own prayer wall within the garden. A team of pupils maintain the beautiful flower beds and ensure that it is always a calm, peaceful environment for their peers.
The prayer garden is accessible to the whole school community and has been a place of solace for pupils, parents and staff at times of difficulty or personal suffering.
Mrs Pughe, the school’s leader of RE and Catholic Life commented, “We are so blessed and privileged as a school family to have access to such an oasis of peace for prayer and contemplation within our school grounds”
2) To Live Sustainably
The school’s eco-Mini Vinnies and the Junior Park Rangers have been so busy ensuring that everyone in the school community understands their responsibility in caring for God’s creation. They have promoted the regularly run ‘Switch off Fortnight’, community litter-picks and recycling across the school. The school is now a paperless school when communicating with parents and is saving energy and reducing their electricity bill. Eco-monitors make sure all electrical resources are switched off when pupils are not in the classroom and pupils are encouraged to tell others to do the same at home. Parents have even reported that their children have been spreading this important message to others outside of the school community!
St Bernadette’s is now using energy efficient LED lighting and has solar roof panels too. It commendably has the lowest school electricity bills in Milton Keynes. The school has been praised by Milton Keynes Council and is used as an example of good practice for using sustainable energy.
Pupils have learnt how to grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs; and how to cook healthy meals with their own produce. They have also grown their own flowers such as daffodils, marigolds and lavender which they sold to raise money for the school’s charitable work.
3) To be in solidarity with those living in poverty and vulnerable.
St Bernadette’s school community places service at the centre of their mission. They are always looking for opportunities to support the vulnerable both within the local community and beyond. The SVP’s Make a House a Home project for young homeless families, the Winter night Shelter, MK Foodbank, a local care home and local dementia club are just some of the local charities that they support. They have also recently sponsored a guide dog puppy; supported the development of a school in Ghana; raised funds for a care home for sick children in South Africa and supported various CAFOD projects.
The LiveSimply Assessment
CAFOD volunteers, Peter Haddon and Graham Ryan visited the school on 1 October to collect evidence to make sure all three key aspects of the action plan had been carried out. They interviewed Mrs Pughe, Mrs Zamora – the Headteacher, representatives from the Mini Vinnies and Junior Park Rangers pupil teams and school parents. They also met with me.
They were impressed at their findings. It was a lovely opportunity to share and celebrate what St Bernadette’s had achieved. What excited them the most were the plans for the following year which was to carry on and build upon the LiveSimply work they had carried out so far.
St Bernadette Primary (Milton Keynes) received the LiveSimply award
The school’s plans for the year ahead include:
- Implementing a new wider curriculum focussing on our responsibility as citizens of the planet Earth, developing learning projects with children from the Ghanaian school they are supporting.
- Introduce a new recycling scheme, recycling packaging that is not recyclable via the normal waste collection services. The school will reduce landfill, support the production of recycled plastic products and raise funds for Willen Hospice in the process!
- Secure funding to construct allotments for pupils and families – promoting positive physical and mental health, sustainability and healthy eating whilst supporting the science and maths curriculum at the same time.
After a full morning of rigorous evidence gathering, the assessors were able to confidently conclude that St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School had achieved the LiveSimply Award. A beautiful wooden plaque was presented to the school. This was displayed in pride of place in front of the school chapel.
Mrs Zamora declared, “I could not be prouder of our school. I particularly thank Mrs Pughe, the members of our staff’s, ‘Healthy Spirit Team’, the pupils who lead our Mini Vinnie Teams and our Park Rangers who have coordinated this aspect of our wider curriculum over the last two years. The feedback from the assessors was wonderful to hear and gave us the drive to find even more ways to Live Simply”.
When she announced the result to the whole school the following day, the school hall was full of cheers of joy. Every child and member of staff was delighted as they have all played a part in responding Pope Francis’ invitation to Live Simply.
Well done St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School! What a fantastic achievement! You have paved the way for other schools and parishes to take up the LiveSimply challenge too!
>> click here to see how your school and parish can take up the LiveSimply challenge