Reams of paper
  • Eco Squad

It’s hard to visualise what one million piece of paper might look like.  One might imagine a swirl of white, circulating in the air as they cascade from an office block window in a movie scene.  Or, perhaps, you could think of them stacked pile upon pile in neatly-bound reams, reaching from floor to ceiling in a dusty stationery cupboard.  In LEH’s case, that’s exactly where they are: unused, unneeded, as our push to go paperless gathers momentum.

It all began with a simple premise.  As an iPad school since September 2016, were we leveraging all the capacity of that technology to share resources, set work and give feedback?  Teachers had had the iPads since September 2015, using that first year to familiarise ourselves with apps and what they could do for us both in and out of the classroom.  We had quickly become conversant with a variety of ways to work, some staff devoted to Firefly or Google Classroom while others became passionate Showbie advocates.  Members of staff applied for Digital Leader status, acting as trail-blazers in trying new apps, then using their expertise to assist and train other staff in developing their use of iPads.

We made the decision not to mandate which platform had to be used; rather, the members of each department experimented individually and as a whole with different ways of working before agreeing a common set of tools for that subject.  Pupils quickly adapted to the varying requirements of each department and indeed took the lead at times in prompting staff to make use of apps which they found useful.  ‘It’s on Showbie’ or ‘you can find it in the folder on Classroom’ became commonplace alternatives to ‘take one and pass them on’ when handing out articles, worksheets or textbook pages.  Fast forward to September 2018 and it was clear that the whole school was ready for the next step.

While we were undergoing a digital revolution in the classroom, a grassroots movement from pupils showed us that the school’s eco-credentials were of genuine interest to the students.  A group of Sixth Formers proposed the formation of an EcoSquad and, with a member of staff appointed to the EcoSquad Co-ordinator role, took on a wide-ranging remit to improve environmental awareness and action in the school.  Their initial focus was on single-use plastic, identifying areas in the school where this could be eliminated.  Individual bottles of water were removed from school-issued packed lunches and not handed out at sports fixtures; plastic tumblers replaced single-use plastic cups in the dining hall.  Pupils were encouraged to use their water bottle at every opportunity, and Eco-Squad produced their own LEH-branded ones for sale to assist in the effort.

The obvious next step for the EcoSquad was to look at our use of paper.  Here the school’s increasing fluency with digital technology meant that we felt confident in taking some bold steps to reduce printing and photocopying.  Papercut software had already been installed across the school’s network and now we had the chance to make full use of its capabilities.  For pupils it was simple: an annual limit of £5 for the Sixth Form, equivalent to 1,000 black and white copies or 100 colour copies.  Years 7-11 were given a £3 limit per year.  Hitting the limit only required a visit to the Head of Year to extend it – plus a quick chat about what and why they had been printing!

For staff, though, we needed to think creatively.  A limit wouldn’t help in some high-use departments, and announcing that usage would be monitored felt a little too much like Big Brother.  An initially controversial move saw us removing individual printers from offices and department areas, including from the Senior Management Team.  Careful deployment of networked Multi-Functional Devices (MFDs) around school meant that most printing and copying only involved a short walk (good for the step count!) and with personal codes or swipe cards for print release we could guarantee security of printed information.  We also programmed the default print and photocopying settings on all MFDs to produce black and white, double-sided pages.

Using our Digital Leaders as champions for digital workflow apps, we announced publicly to all staff in September 2018 that our goal was to reduce our printing, challenging departments to make their reductions as significant as possible.  The results were quick to show: 19 days into the new academic year in September 2018 we had already printed 80,000 fewer pages.  It was only when we contrasted the usage in the 2016-17 academic year, the year in which we first introduced 1-1 iPads into school, against 2018-19, that we saw what an impact our twin goals had had.  As a school, we had printed just short of one million fewer pages in the last year.  Of those, over two thirds of the reduction was in colour copying but even then, we had printed 370,000 fewer black and white too.

We have not only saved money (over £40,000 on printing and photocopying costs alone) but also trees.  By Papercut’s estimation, our one million pages equates to about 10 trees.  We couldn’t be prouder of what we have achieved – but it is not the end of the story.  We continue to hone and refine our use of iPad technology, there are still departments who default to paper when it may not be strictly necessary to do so, and our EcoSquad have grand plans for the installation of a living wall to reduce our carbon footprint.  Here’s hoping our initial success will lead to long-term and self-sustaining environmental awareness and action.

Lindsey Hughes - Deputy Head of LEH School

  • LEH Eco Squad