From the Junior School head's desk: 2 June 2023

Sarah Warner

A week after the Little Saints sports day and PA fun day were held on campus and we’re still talking about how much we enjoyed being there. In an email exchange I had with one of our parents, she recounted her experience of walking someone from another school around the fun day. Apparently, the visiting parent was astounded to discover that the event was organised and realised in toto by the St Mary’s community, commenting that “this would be almost impossible to do at her school.” I am grateful to everyone who contributed to the success of the day by giving their ideas, time, and other resources – including our support staff without whom none of these events would be possible. Thank you for such a happy time spent on campus.

Events like the fun day show us what we can achieve when we draw together as a community, pool our talents and acknowledge our shared interests. This is why I want to enlist your support with another campus project, one that deserves our urgent and sustained attention: litter.

Both of the events we hosted on Saturday in the Junior School were made more onerous for our support staff by the entirely avoidable presence of litter. The teachers and I have addressed the girls about littering; we have encouraged, coaxed, and cajoled them into greater awareness of their own habits in class time and at assemblies; we model the behaviour we expect from the children by using the clearly marked bins provided everywhere on campus; and we pick up litter when we see it instead of walking over it or past it. This, sadly, is a daily exercise, like the collecting of lost property…

I know that litter is a tedious topic, and I can feel the teenage girl in me roll her eyes at its frequent reprisals. What continues to baffle me though is why it’s more uncool to speak about littering than it is to do it – which is part of the reason I find myself dedicating time to studying its persistence in affluent areas, such as private school campuses.

Like any subject of discussion, littering has some interesting nuances: one of them is the practice of “careful littering”, something favoured by people, mostly adults, who view themselves as generally wholesome, conscientious, and civic minded. Careful littering is the considered placement of waste in public areas: park benches, tables, window ledges, walkways, staircases, sports stands, door entrances (including chapel entrances) – you get the idea.

There was an abundance of carefully littered disposable coffee cups and muffin cases, in various stages of consumption, at the Little Saints sports day; the litter at the fun day resembled the more common variety with chip packets, other assorted packaging, and used tissues discarded at random across the parking lot, Junior Primary playground and Junior School Close. These two patterns of littering are consistent with the observation I made earlier: adults were responsible for the litter at our sports day while the bulk of the mess left at the fun day was made by our children.

I appeal to you for your help in both instances. Please support our efforts with your children by treating littering with the contempt it deserves as well as changing your mind set about careful littering – any action that requires another person to tidy up after you is inconsiderate, however neatly it is executed. While for-profit companies like the London-based Earnt come up with more creative ways to incentivise good will among their clients by pairing consumer desire with philanthropy ( 251c-474b-a054-abef27b8b4a2), I hope we can inspire changes in behaviour through the more familiar channels of love, community and integrity.


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