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Meet Jacqui Kevan, a Primary School Deputy Head With a Green Heart

Meet Jacqui Kevan, a Primary School Deputy Head With a Green Heart

In the lead up to Great Big Green Week in September 2021, Green Heart Collective reached out to local Primary and Secondary Schools to create a connection - and we did! Jacqui Kevan, Deputy Headteacher of Brighton Avenue Primary School, Gateshead, invited Helen into school during Great Big Green Week to deliver a presentation about reducing waste to the upper school. Jacqui is an inspiration, always looking how to raise awareness of the climate emergency and take steps with the pupils and staff in school to respond to it. 

We were delighted when Jacqui Kevan agreed to be interviewed and we hope that this interview inspires you, especially if you are a teacher or work with children and young people in some way. Jacqui demonstrates perfectly how we can all play our part.

Could you first of all tell us a little about yourself – where you’re from and how you ended up in this role in this school? 

I’m Jacqui Kevan, originally from South Yorkshire. I moved to Newcastle to complete a B.Ed.Teaching Degree. While studying to become a primary school teacher, I also worked in Fenwick's. It was this retail experience that changed my career path. After becoming a ‘retail graduate’, I became a manager in Fenwick's and in two stores in the Metrocentre. Finally, I became a store manager, which was an amazing experience!  

I’m so happy that I met Nic, who is now my husband, when I first moved to Newcastle and we have a wonderful family! After becoming a Mum, I was passionate to now become a teacher knowing that children need love, reassurance and attention, and to not only educate, but to show my pupils that with commitment and hard work, they would be capable of being anything that they want to be! I knew I could create a safe place for the children in my classroom and school, where mental health and wellbeing, resilience, teamwork, creativity and empathy are encouraged just as enthusiastically as academic performance. Through teaching and learning, I would inspire pupils to approach opportunities with curiosity, energy and enthusiasm. I believed that I could help pupils achieve their highest potential! I have been teaching since 2003 and am proud that I am now a Deputy Headteacher at Brighton Avenue Primary School. 

Why does caring for the planet matter to you and how does that care for the planet affect what you do? 

Not only thinking of my own family, future grandchildren and generations, but working in a school means myself and staff can educate our pupils and parents/carers about the changes we can all make that will have an impact for our future generations. Through our curriculum (sustainability links with a variety of subjects and experiences), Collective Worships, visits/visitors, links (e.g. David Attenborough’s Our Planet), clubs and Eco-team, we continue to share the understanding that the Earth is our home. It has all the things we need to live, but we need to take care of the Earth so it can keep giving us what we need. There are plenty of ways to make choices that help our planet, like recycling plastic bottles or used batteries or having systems in school that will turn lights off when we are not using a classroom/corridor. Our pupils and Eco-team are keen to share their understanding to their families; we are proud that they understand that they don’t have to wait to be an adult to make choices that will have an impact on our planet Earth! 

Could you tell us about the eco club you started in school, how the children engaged with it and the plans for the future? 

Following on with the previous question, I instigated an Eco-team in Brighton Avenue Primary School; however, Covid-19 risk assessments restricted their links with another primary school and sustainability project. For the 2021-22 school year, a range of children from KS2 - who wanted to be part of the Eco-team - presented their ideas for how to raise the awareness of climate change: what we could do in our school to make an impact, meet our own needs and have an impact for future generations. They understood this was an opportunity to communicate with their parents/carers and changes that they could make at home and school staff and Governors in school, whether through our school website/assemblies/virtually. Covid-restrictions allowing, I also wanted the Eco-team to share the importance of this project (our carbon footprint) with our cluster schools and links with our community; the Eco-team could also provide peer support across the school, whether during our weekly ‘Golden Time’, meetings, the curriculum sessions, e.g. that could link with Geography, Outdoor Learning, PSHE+C, Science, DT or Key Stage assemblies, visits & visitors and with events in the year, eg, Gateshead Great Big Green Week, COP26, Campground Waste & Recycling Centre, Green Heart Collective, liaising with Zero Carbon Schools Project and their schools across the country; also, future events, e.g. Earth Day, 22nd April, with the 2022’s theme being: ‘Invest in our Planet.’ This is all an exciting opportunity for myself and our school to be involved with – we will make an impact! 

In Great Big Green Week, you invited Helen Redfern from Green Heart Collective in to talk about waste in the fashion industry in particular. How did that go and what was the response from the children? 

My school always wants to share local community experiences with our children so I was very excited to research places in Gateshead who also care for our planet, that I could introduce to the Eco-team. For example, three things we could begin with explaining to the school and parents/carers were: 

- Reduce the amount of rubbish we throw away, in school and at home 

- Reuse things where we could, e.g. water bottles, clothing 

- Recycle rubbish by sorting it out into the correct bins/places, e.g. used batteries, paper, plastic, create a compost bin etc. 

Following this research, I was really looking forward to meeting Helen! On Thursday 23rd September 2021, Helen visited our school with a powerful presentation and discussion, with the Upper KS2 children, initially encouraging the children and staff to think about where all our rubbish goes. Helen explained who she was and the 'Green Heart Collective', which is on Gateshead High Street, dedicated to reducing waste to landfill by providing an attractive and sustainable alternative to buying new. The children thought about what they could do with preloved clothing and other items, for example, repair, re-wear, reuse - swap or donate or to sell them. 

The UKS2 children really enjoyed their workshops with Helen, where they discussed the reasons for persuading people to buy nothing new and how shopping preloved clothes could make a world of difference! The variety of posters to explain this message was wonderful! 



Before Christmas, you collected a box of T shirts from GHC – how have these been used in school or how will they be used? 

We were inspired with so many ideas of how we could upcycle these T shirts, the original plan being a Christmas Fashion Show! However, due to Covid restricting our numbers in December, we are now going to upcycle these in the summer term. The focus, after upcycling the T shirt and transforming it into something new entirely, is to wear them in an Upcycled Fashion Show, which is also linked to DT knowledge and skills, and also for the School Dance Festival. The UKS2 children plan to upcycle their T shirt by either: cutting and sewing, e.g. adding a bow or pocket or used jewellery, embroidery, painting, tie-dye, alter the style/size of the t-shirt, e.g. alter the length of the t-shirt or one of the arm lengths or add material/another item of their used clothing to make the t-shirt into a summer dress. After the Upcycled Fashion Show and Dance Festival, the children and staff are already excited to think what the upcycled T shirts could then be altered into, e.g. a bag, pillow-case, a rug or blanket, socks, to hang a plant or use for a pet cat/dog’s basket etc. 


At this beginning of this new year, Helen wrote a blog about resolutions. Tell us how you went through the 70 resolutions in school and the discussion that followed…. 

I shared the Green Heart Collective 70 (63!) New Year resolutions initially with the Eco-team. They were proud of the resolutions either they currently do in school or home or with their family. However, we also discussed ‘New Year Resolutions’ and how January can be a time to make changes to our own lifestyles. The children were really proud that our school already does 'meat free Monday!' The Headteacher, during ‘Reflection Time’ in Collective Worship, also discussed resolutions (possibilities, truthful, untruthful). For staff, in their own Key Stage wellbeing time, they wanted to reflect on the key areas of eat, wear, buy, reduce, transport (A to B travel), lifestyle and saving energy, again after January, to see what they had remained committed to and what the impact was. 

Why do think it is important for children to think about the climate emergency? What would you like to see in your school? 

As I’ve previously explained in my answers, through my weekly meetings with my Eco-team, visits and visitors, we have discussed that there is a climate emergency because our climate is changing faster than nature can adapt to it, including us. For example, when these fuels are burned they release greenhouse gases which trap heat in the earth's atmosphere, causing the air and seas to heat up which changes the climate. Reiterating again, the Earth is our home and the changes we make to become eco-friendly will have an impact for our future generations. In school, some children have decided to walk instead of drive (Road Safety workshops in school to promote children’s awareness when crossing roads) or eating less meat (‘Meat-free Monday’ in school) and monitoring classrooms to check that staff avoid leaving computers/printers on standby, unplug chargers when not in use and we can monitor the school's heating/classroom temperatures. The Eco-team have also made a difference by now having in school a place that parents/carers, staff and the community can bring their used batteries; also, we now have a paper only recycling bin in 8 classrooms and 4 paper bins outside that are emptied every fortnight. We are also planning to use our class compost bins, which we collect waste from the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme, in our own Forest School and garden area to improve the soil and conserve moisture; it also helps to reduce the amount of rubbish that has to go into a landfill site. 


The team here at Green Heart Collective is inspired by the children and staff at Brighton Avenue Primary School and look forward to working with the school again in the future. We definitely want a seat at the Upcycled Fashion Show! If you're a teacher and have ideas to share about how to get young people fired up about the climate, then do get in touch. We'd love to hear from you.

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