OxSSN, or the Oxford Sustainable Schools Network [1], brings together students and teachers into a community open to climate discussions: from issues to aspirations and solutions. Leading the Network are Phoebe Mortimer, the Sustainability Lead for the River Learning Trust and English teacher at Cheney School, Oxford; Megan Murray-Pepper, formerly a teacher and sustainability campaigner at Magdalen College School and currently an independent sustainability educator; and Kim Polgreen, Community Engagement Officer at Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery [2], University of Oxford, and sustainability educator.

In collaboration with Oxford Climate Society and Oxford Nature Conservation Society, the “Meet the Undergraduates” event was held on Wednesday 22nd May. The University students represented degree subjects ranging from Chinese Studies, Physics, and Human Sciences to Biology and Geography and they were able to offer their experiences of studying and being involved in student societies, as well as their climate-related career aspirations. Both Oxford Climate Society and Oxford Nature Conservation Society hold a variety of events including talks from distinguished speakers, socials, and practical outdoor activities, and this valuable overlap really came to the fore as the younger students expressed their interests in a broad range of climate and sustainability issues.

The afternoon unfolded like a workshop, with the University and secondary school students divided into smaller groups for discussion. Using prompts, which included “why do you study this subject”, to more challenging questions such as “what do you think are the greatest environmental challenges we are currently facing?”, the groups simultaneously tackled these while getting to know each other. Given the different schools and the two different societies present, there were many new faces and diverse experiences and approaches to the climate crisis.

Hearing individual answers to these prompts, it seems clear that schools and students face the same challenges of momentum and engagement. Getting university students to engage with the urgency of the climate movement can, at times, feel like a competition with the many other demands on our time. While the scale and reach of university societies like Oxford Climate Society and Nature Conservation Society are likely larger than those of school communities, the proactivity and dedication evident amongst the younger pupils who came was genuinely inspiring. This was a clear showcase of the energy and momentum the Oxford Sustainable Schools Network is designed to foster.

As articulated by some of the students present:
“Meet the Undergraduates” was a dialogue that cultivated hope in high schoolers like us. d’Overbroeck’s had the pleasure to join the Network for the first time in this school year, and we were immersed in the impactful and rich conversations quickly with the friendly atmosphere the workshop possessed. Being able to get in touch with aspirational students in Oxfordshire and realising that we are not alone in the journey of making our world better, was such an empowering way to relieve climate anxiety, which was among the topics discussed. We were grateful for the insights from the Oxford University students from a diverse set of degree programs, combined with ours, helped set into motion a blueprint for improvements we could make in our school campus.”

As a member myself of Oxford Climate Society, I came away wondering if, among the infectious enthusiasm of the secondary schoolers, I had imparted as much wisdom and motivation that the younger students were able to share as they recalled their school initiatives and their personal ambitions. However, receiving a follow-up message to our society email from one of the schools present reinforced our mutual goals, as well as what we have to offer and learn from. Our commitment to ‘developing the next generation of informed climate leaders’ [3] rings true here, with events such as these serving as reminders of hope for all current and future student voices – of all ages.


  1. Oxfordshire Schools Sustainability Network (14 – 18) (no date a) Oxford Earth Academy. Available at: https://oxfordearthacademy.org/oxon-schools-sustainability-network (Accessed: June 2024). 
  2. Kim Polgreen (no date) Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery. Available at: https://www.naturerecovery.ox.ac.uk/people/kim-polgreen/ (Accessed: June 2024). 
  3. Home (no date) OXFORD CLIMATE SOCIETY. Available at: https://www.oxfordclimatesociety.com/ (Accessed: June 2024).