Whole school planning

A successful sustainable school involves the whole school community in the development, implementation and evaluation of the plan.

By planning for sustainability, schools create an achievable framework in which to manage waste, water, energy and biodiversity.

Why plan?

Wherever your school is on its sustainability journey, have a plan.

What is a SEMP?

A School Environment Management Plan (SEMP) is a document that sets out the school community's intentions in regard to environmental education and environmental management. It represents an agreement to work together across the whole school.

A SEMP helps to integrate environmental considerations into whole-school planning. It helps to implement changes to school culture and everyday practices and to apply the principles of ecologically sustainable development across all school activities.

Getting started

Develop a plan with a planning template.

Auditing tools

In order to formulate a plan, the current situation needs to be assessed.

  • Students can audit their schools energy use using tools available from the Department of Education and Communities (DEC) Environmental Education webpages.
  • Thermal performance tool - DECintranet site only.
  • School building thermal performance problem solver - DEC intranet site only.

For more teaching resources for energy, waste and water visit the Teach section of this website.

How to plan

A SEMP Guide and SEMP planning template (see attachment below) have been developed to assist you in creating your school environmental management plan. The template can be adapted to your school community, branding and local priorities.

A finished plan is only useful if there is ownership and willingness by the school community to implement it. In developing the plan it is useful to consider the following:

Consult with the school community

Knowing peoples' concerns and priorities can help guide the first steps towards a more sustainable school. Use the school council or teachers' meetings, or student and community forums to develop a picture of the needs and wants of the school community. Get a team together to decide on how to best use this information and start your plan.

Learn more about your place

As part of the curriculum students can investigate their school or local environments. They can research how the school manages its energy, water and waste by conducting audits and they can observe changes over time in the biodiversity present in the school grounds.

Plan your action

Students and teachers can bring the research information together with the consultation and develop Action Plans. For example, your water action plan may include changes to the schools plumbing systems, water capture systems, and changing patterns of water use at school and at home.

Implement: measure, record and describe

Integrating these steps into teaching programs will give students important skills across all curriculum areas. By keeping a record of your actions and the results you can communicated to the school, to parents and to the community.


Reflecting on the process and the outcome of each of your action plans is an important step. These celebrations will motivate your school community to take on the next challenge and engage others along the way.

Build a team

To effectively implement sustainability initiatives into your school planning, a good team or committee to help is essential. Having a cross section of people from across the school and the local community is recommended as it provides access to a range of different skills and view points. Members in the environmental team can include:

  • students
  • the school Principal
  • teachers
  • parents
  • members of your P&C association
  • administration, cleaning and maintenance staff.


Building a team (DOC 112KB) is provided below to support the development of an effective environmental or sustainability team within your school.

Teaching and curriculum

Whole school planning promotes and supports sustainability as a key context for teaching and learning. Learning for sustainability is best delivered through a wide range of teaching and learning activities delivered across all key learning areas. By using real examples, problem solving and active student participation schools can empower students to make decisions and take actions that contribute to creating a sustainable society and ecosystem.

The advent of the National curriculum, which includes sustainability as a cross curriculum dimension, provided the impetus for the development of the Sustainability Curriculum Framework.

To support teachers in their efforts to integrate sustainability within teaching and learning Sustainable Schools NSW provides links to resources grouped around the major concepts of:

The development of higher order thinking skills will enable students to participate more fully in the activities provided on this site.

Vision and values

A shared vision is an important element within your whole school approach to sustainability education.

Clarifying the school community vision provides a foundation that brings together your school on its sustainability journey. It can help the school community to understand the roles that are played by teachers, administrators, parents, community organisations and students, and how these partners all make contributions to the overall goal.