'ESD will change the future for our students': Jenny Willis, Heart of Worcestershire College

Jenny Willis, Advanced Quality Practitioner at Heart of Worcestershire College, participated in the Education and Training Foundation’s (ETF) six-session education for sustainable development (ESD) course, November 2022 to February 2023. Here, she reflects on the impact the course had on her practice and that of her colleagues. 

Headshot of Jenny Willis, Advanced Quality Practitioner at Heart of Worcestershire College.
Jenny Willis, Advanced Quality Practitioner at Heart of Worcestershire College

Why do you think education for sustainable development (ESD) is important? 

It’s important because it is something that will change the future for our students. Young people are very aware of climate issues, but I think they often feel disempowered in terms of what to do about it. As educators, we want to combat that disillusionment, and prepare learners for a world of work that will be impacted by climate issues. If education isn’t doing that, it’s part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. 

What were you hoping to gain from ETF’s ESD series? 

I hoped the ESD course would help me support my colleagues to better embed and promote ESD in their own practice. When the new Professional Standards were published, highlighting the importance of ESD, many colleagues using the accompanying self-assessment tool gave themselves a low score in that area. In my role as an advanced practitioner, I wanted to support colleagues in their next steps towards embedding ESD in their practice. I was also looking for tools and resources to help convince leadership that this is a vital area to focus on. 

What did you find most useful about the course? 

I learned so much from other providers on the course. The networking opportunities were invaluable, and the impact of those connections has been ongoing. As a result of attending the course, I linked up with the Sustain FE community of practice and I’ve continued to connect with other people and providers since.  

Across all six course sessions, there was so much useful information, but for me the fifth session on green jobs and sustainability careers was particularly relevant. I’ve used many resources from that session with colleagues, including IfATE’s sustainability framework. 

How have you put your learning into practice? 

In my role as an advanced practitioner, I ran some CPD sessions for about 80 members of staff in our college based on my learnings from the course. I noticed that staff joining the sessions often believed ESD wasn’t directly relevant to them, but they left seeing that it was, and thinking about how they could better incorporate sustainability into their practice. For example, colleagues in art and design realised that, beyond the materials they were using, the pieces learners create can be used to communicate issues of sustainability more effectively. It was great to see enthusiasm spreading among colleagues. 

Personally, I’ve continued to network further based on the connections I made through the course. I’ve also just started a Master’s in education for sustainability. In the classroom, I’ve seen my own students grow more aware of the sustainable development goals. They’re thinking more about how small actions they take in their future careers could make a real impact on sustainability. 

For more information on ETF’s education for sustainable development resources and support, visit our ESD webpage.