Dr David Preece, Head of Geography, Teach First
In Leadership for Sustainability David Dixon provides inspiration and practical advice on how to embed sustainability, based on significant evidence and authority of experience working across multiple schools. But he argues there is a moral ‘captaincy’ required to take the initiative in the face of wider system and external pressure, echoed by Lord Knight in the foreword.
Leadership for Sustainability is not a neutral book. At each turn, Dixon’s personal values and purpose shine through his words, and he is unafraid to challenge the status quo and big names. He elegantly describes what it really means to be a leader with sustainability as one of your values, as much as the operational process by which you might accomplish the aim of moving your school estate to net zero. The provocations and reflections in each chapter help to frame the discussions, and form the starting point for your own journey towards leadership for sustainability, if you have courage enough to grasp them. This is a provocative and challenging book for traditional leadership models.
Dixon looks at the key ideas that shape thinking about sustainability, with well-recognised theories made accessible to all, and builds on his doctoral study of successful Eco-Schools leaders to explore methods, policies and language approaches, and ways to embed the existing knowledge and Sustainable Development Goals structures into schools effectively.
He also examines the ways that curriculum can be used to educate and inform pupils, and the wide range of ideas that can be integrated into a school environment. As a geographer, I found familiar and reassuring the intent of learning beyond the classroom, and the integration of place and space into environmental education, but Dixon’s ideas go beyond the traditionally academic and into the moral and character education of the child too. Eco-Schools and forest school practitioners alike will recognise a lot of his principles and embedded ideas, and welcome the support for their aims, but Dixon draws on his wide experience to offer lots of routes and options. A great example is the systematic analysis of the need for training, expertise and even the Royal Horticultural Society as part of a ‘grow your own’ case study example! Dixon also turns his attention to the campus, and the structural work that can be done to bring sustainability into the built environment. Here, Dixon’s sense of personal example and captaincy is perhaps at its strongest and most provocative, and his determination and pursuit of marginal gains shines through. Finally, in Chapter 5, the wider sense of community integration is explored, with a thoughtful review of the historical development of the role of schools as community centres over time.
This book, then, is as much a challenge and call to action for leaders to use their powers and make their own decisions for social and climate justice, as it is a practical and realistic framework of working with real pupils in real schools.