Louder than words

Taking sustainable action

Sustainability is one of four strands being presented at the 2024 COBIS conference in London this May. Colin Bell introduces the four speakers who are urging us to take sustainable action.

Planning a sustainable action plan 

The 2024 COBIS Annual Conference theme – Louder Than Words – is designed to encourage delegates from global schools to think about, and commit to, meaningful action in a number of key areas in the coming year.

We will be asking all participants to take tangible, innovative action in their schools over the next year in one of four areas. Last year, with our conference theme of Leading Learning for a New Paradigm, we invited participants to think about how we evolve our pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, pastoral care, and educational structures. This year, we are challenging participants to explore and commit to practical steps that will move the sector forward in one of these domains:

  1. Sustainability
  2. Wellbeing
  3. Education redesign
  4. New technologies

Urging us on in the area of sustainability are speakers Mike Gunton, Barna Barath, Gary Russell and Christine Özden – all amazing leaders in their field. Here’s a taste of what they have to offer.

Mike Gunton

Topic: Educating future leaders about the natural world

Mike is the Creative Director of Factual and The Natural History Unit for BBC Studios. In this role, he works as an executive producer on many BBC titles, acts as an ambassador for BBC Studios internationally, and is responsible for bringing new and pioneering stories about the natural world to global audiences. Across his career, Mike has worked on many critically acclaimed series such as Galapagos, Yellowstone, Madagascar, Life, Africa, Shark, Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur and Life Story. Mike’s series include the record-breaking Planet Earth II, (winner of 4 BAFTAs and 2 Emmys, and believed to have been viewed by around 1 billion people), and the ground-breaking animal behaviour series Dynasties. Mike’s latest series, Planet Earth III, has already been seen by millions of people and brings a new perspective to understanding our natural world and the challenges it faces.

Mike is a fellow of the Royal Television Society. His work has helped us all bear witness to the beauty of a natural world and the threats that face it. Now he asks “What must future leaders know about the natural world?”

Barna Barath

Topic: How to raise Generation C – Generation Climate Change

The founder of REAL School Budapest, a new international primary school that educates for sustainability through real life entrepreneurial learning, Barna is a climate change, sustainability and education entrepreneur. He previously spent four years as head of strategy, board member and parent at Green School Bali, a unique community of changemakers educating for a sustainable world.

Earlier he was the co-founder & CEO for 10 years of Vertis Environmental Finance, an award-winning climate change finance company. Barna serves on the boards of Climate-KIC, the EU’s leading climate innovation initiative, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, and Vertis. Barna’s key question is: “How can education be formative and life changing – as well as world changing at the same time?”


Gary Russell

Topic: Beyond Words: Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) in action.

Gary has spent the last thirty years working and leading in outstanding schools across the globe. Following nearly 10 years as a Geography Teacher and Middle Leader in the UK, Gary moved to Bahrain to join St Christopher’s School and then to the UAE to help establish Dubai English Speaking College as the Founding Deputy Headteacher. Most recently, Gary was appointed Head of College at Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong in 2022, where, in his words:

“We have moved beyond words by committing to a future shaped by responsible environmental and social governance. Driven by our four pillars of: Learning, People, Planet and Policy, our community has united and pledged to sustainable and values-driven practices. This includes the first ever College level ESG report which has been created through a collaborative process to provide a framework for review and a roadmap for future actions. As a school and wider community that has always been socially minded, our approach provides a mechanism for ensuring we celebrate our actions whilst planning forward in a systematic and thoughtful way.”


Christine Özden

Topic: Leading impactful climate change together

It is a measure of how important the whole area of sustainability is to Cambridge Press and Assessment that they have appointed Christine Özden as their first climate education lead. Her appointment in September 2022 is a huge statement of intent by Cambridge. She is tasked with no less a job than steering the organisation in the development of the kind of learning that will solve the climate crisis. She works with colleagues across the organisation, the University of Cambridge and a wide range of education stakeholders internationally.

Christine is a long-standing member of the organisation’s environment governance board and also sponsors the colleague-run environment staff network. Christine has a wealth of experience in international education, having spent all her career in the sector, providing products and services to schools, universities and ministries of education, with a particular focus on development and delivery of curriculum, content and assessment in international education.

“Education”, she argues, “is key in tackling the climate crisis. High quality education matters, and local context matters, too. Drawing on expertise from the University of Cambridge, and the emerging evidence from school systems and school communities worldwide, we look at what works and the practical steps school leaders can take. By working together we can make sure students can be ready for the world at a time of climate change.”

“This was a valuable opportunity to hear different perspectives and voices. Hearing insights from our local schools and colleges – as well as those around the world – is vital in informing our organisation’s approach to climate education.”

Responding to a serious challenge

The best schools never stand still – they are committed to constantly learning, developing, improving, and evolving. These schools, like the ones in COBIS membership, are always adapting to respond to the changing world, to meet the needs of their learners and the wider community, both now and in the future. They strive to prepare young people to flourish and succeed in an ever-changing world – helping them to develop the skills that will enable them to address global challenges ahead – both those that we are already aware of, and other challenges yet to come.

Louder Than Words – let’s see this in action in the critical area of sustainability! If this is important to you, please join us in London on Saturday 11th – Monday 13th of May.

Click here to book your place now

Colin Bell  is CEO at COBIS – Council of British International Schools




FEATURE IMAGE: Unsplash+ In collaboration with Joshua Earle

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