Whole School Approach to Sustainable Development

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What is the WSA?

The Whole School Approach to Sustainable Development is a framework that supports schools in giving shape to education for a sustainable future, in consultation with all stakeholders and interested parties in and around the school. The WSA helps to integrate sustainability issues structurally and coherently into the school organization.

Each school can shape the WSA in its own way and take steps at its own level. The WSA provides scope for getting started per component, without losing sight of the cohesion.

The WSA flower

De WSA uses a flower as a metaphor. The petals are the domains of change. The heart of the flower is the school’s vision on education in the context of the 21st century. This is the place where all the petals are connected.

WHY? The WSA helps to anchor sustainable development within the school organization in all areas. In this way, students are nourished and stimulated from all petals of the WSA to think and act sustainably. Attention to sustainability becomes self-evident. Subsequently, the foundation for a sustainable attitude and lifestyle is created at school. 

The WSA helps schools to ask each other – youth, teachers, management, educational supporters and external stakeholders – the right questions and thus arrive at a place where people live and breathe sustainability. This framework is an invitation to discover what contribution your school can make to the transition toward a sustainable society. 


What are we learning for?

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What do we learn?

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Pedagogy & Didactics

How do we learn?

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Building & Business Operations

Where do we learn?

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Professional Development

Who do we learn from?

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School Environment

Who do we learn with?

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Vision - What are we learning for?

The core of the WSA is about vision and the question what we want to achieve with our education. On the one hand, the vision is about responsibility as a school towards youth and their development as people, citizens and professions. On the other hand, it is about the responsibility that schools are willing to take for each other and for planet earth, and to constantly connect with the social context of our time. The WSA for sustainable development invites you to reflect on one of the biggest issues: How can and will our school contribute to a sustainable world and future?

 By giving substance to the future image of the school together with a broad group of colleagues, youth and other stakeholders such as parents or companies, a jointly shared “dot on the horizon” is created; a dream that is realized together. Such a vision inspires and provides guidance to the interpretation of education for sustainable development.

Questions to discuss with each other

  •         What do we think is important when we talk about a sustainable society?
  •         What contribution do we want to make with our education?
  •         What goals do we set for ourselves to realize our vision? And when?
  •         How do we involve our students and external partners in drawing up this vision?
  •         How do we make the realization of our vision an ongoing process?


  •         Sustainable Development Goals
  •         Everyone thinks and participates in formulating and realizing the vision
  •         The vision motivates, inspires and connects
  •         Impact on youth and their development
  •         Impact on a sustainable society and planet earth

Curiculum - What do we learn?

The complexity of sustainability issues requires an integrated approach. It is key that education for sustainable development is reflected throughout the curriculum. This begins with the question: what do we want our pupils or students to learn regarding sustainable development? Which knowledge and skills are important for them – as individuals, as citizens and as professionals? Based on our vision, what do we want the context of education to look like? When this is clear, a curriculum can be built in which education for sustainable development is integrated.

 Questions to discuss with each other

  •         What sustainability themes are already structurally addressed in our education?
  •         What do we want youth to learn about sustainable development while they attend our school?
  •         What do we need to change in our curriculum to do what we consider important?
  •         What do we do for each course and what is cross-curricular?
  •         How do we ensure that we always have a connection with current events and with sustainability issues within and surrounding the school? 


  •         SDGs
  •         Logical coherence
  •         Interdisciplinary
  •         Meaningful
  •         Up to date

Pedagody & Didactics - How do we learn?

Growing up and educating in the 21st century rises special demands for teachers. It is important to discuss with each other what your individual view is and how your team can mirror and strengthen each other. This complex time, in which changes occur faster, also requires didactic forms that stimulate and maintain the curiosity and motivation of youth. How do you organize that as a school?

 Pedagogy is about you own attitude as a teacher, about attention, about being a role model and making connections. With the concept didactics, we refer to the way of teaching. Which teaching methods do you use and how do you create a learning environment in which students can explore what they find important? How can this help students take action for a sustainable world?

 Questions to discuss with each other

  •         What keeps youth busy and how do we pay attention to this in a committed way?
  •         How do we help our pupils and students discover what is going on in the world?
  •         How do we create room for youth to discover what contribution they are capable of, and willing to make, to a sustainable world?
  •         How do we stimulate the creativity, entrepreneurship and talents of youth?
  •         What does this require of our attitude as a teacher and as a team? 


  •         Being a role model and exemplary behavior  
  •         Experience-oriented teaching models
  •         Curiosity, creativity
  •         Active, enterprising, innovative
  •         Personal leadership 

Building & Business operations - Where do we learn?

Coordination between the vision and the learning environment is important in order to bring learning for sustainable development to life. How do users of the building, the schoolyard, the canteen and the classrooms experience the importance of sustainable thinking and acting? This can be done in many ways. Think of sustainable energy, recycling, a healthy and sustainable canteen, a repair shop, and classrooms and schoolyards with lots of greenery. This creates a school that breathes sustainability.

 But also, by facilitating sustainable transport, thinking about green ICT, building or renovating in a circular manner and applying sustainability criteria when closing contracts (purchasing, cleaning), you show what you stand for and set a good example. In addition to these examples, schools also pay attention to social aspects of sustainability, such as promotin

Questions to discuss with each other

  •         How do we show the importance for sustainability within the school?
  •         How do we communicate what we do to youth, (new) colleagues and visitors?
  •         What opportunities do our building and operations offer for learning for sustainable development.
  •         How can we actively raise the ambitions and wishes of pupils and students, and involve them in making business operations and the building more sustainable?
  •         How do we balance out investments and ensure transparent communication about decision making?


        Sustainability visible and tangible

        Actively involve youth

        Inspiring learning environment

        Safeguarding the vision in all supporting processes

        Housing and real estate, maintenance and management

Professional Development - Who do we learn from?

Professional development focuses on all staff in the school, from janitor to teacher and from policymaker to principal. It is about keeping up with and discussing both professional developments and the social developments that we as people and citizens all have to deal with. Think of climate change or the gap between rich and poor.

If you want to be a school where sustainable thinking and doing is self-evident, this requires you to reflect individually and as a team on whether the knowledge and skills are available for this. The educational institution stimulates and facilitates the development of a basic attitude that promotes sustainable behavior. For example, there is also given attention to sustainability in human resources, when hiring new staff and during performance reviews with employees.

Questions to discuss with each other

  •         What knowledge, skills and talents do we already have in-house?
  •         How can we reinforce each other in our professionalism for sustainable development?
  •         Are we up to date with regard to sustainable developments in our field?
  •         How do we as a team discuss social developments and their impact on our education?
  •         How do we as a team structurally organize room to talk to each other about what concerns youth and what the world demands of them today? 


  •         Individually and jointly
  •         Continuing education and training
  •         Inspiring and expert team
  •         HRM
  •         Reflection

School Environment - Who do we learn with?

More and more people, including entrepreneurs and governments, are engaged in sustainable development. Everyone knows why this is important, but exactly how we can achieve the transition from an unsustainable to a sustainable world is a learning process for everyone. The school can make an important contribution to this. Therefore, the school’s connection with society and the physical environment plays an important role in the WSA. The cooperation with the environment nurtures the school, and the school nurtures the environment.

 This exchange creates opportunities for meaningful learning. Both for youth, for the teachers and for those involved in the school environment. A network of people, organizations and companies with passion and expertise in the field of sustainability forms around the school. Think of parents, local residents, social organizations, local entrepreneurs and the municipality. The environment can also call on the school to let youth help solve sustainability issues.

Questions to discuss with each other

  •         What is our network like? Which partners are associated with our school and which are not yet?
  •         How do we continue building our sustainable network?
  •         What can our school learn from our partners? What do we have to offer our partners?
  •         How do we ensure that our school can be approached easily for companies and organizations in the region?
  •         Do we structurally offer youth room to learn outside the walls of the school?


  • Think global, act local
  • Network with various partners
  • Reciprocal relationships between school and community
  • Meaningful learning
  • Finding solutions for sustainable issues together
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