CGS Pioneer Award Winner: Amna Qureshi, CATS Cambridge

Continuing our series of CGS People Award winner profiles, this month, we recognise Amna Qureshi, joint winner of the CGS Pioneer Award, which celebrates creativity and innovation.
Amna was nominated for being “the driving force behind CATS Cambridge’s approach to sustainability.” Under her guidance, the school has reduced waste going to landfill with “over 470 kg of recyclable waste collected and recycled each month”. She has also introduced the use of VegWare and compostable products for single-use items in the cafeteria and believes that education is integral to driving sustainability.
In addition to her role as a science teacher, Amna is a House Director, Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead, and Personal, Social, Health and Economic Coordinator at CATS Cambridge.
Amna says of winning: “It really is such a huge honour. I did not know I was being nominated, so it feels wonderful to have such supportive peers in the CATS Cambridge community!” She goes on to add: “I have no doubt that the sustainable actions that we have committed to will reflect positively on the CATS Cambridge community.”
How have you championed sustainability at CATS Cambridge?
Importantly, I advocate a whole school approach. I work with staff and students to raise awareness of sustainability issues. Together we look at what we can do as individuals and as a community to make a difference. In the last year, we’ve reduced waste going to landfill, made sustainable Christmas decorations, and pledged to no longer have single-use plastic in the school. A pledge letter was sent to all students, staff, and parents from the student council confirming our commitment.
I believe raising awareness of sustainability issues is essential, playing to my role as a teacher. As a result, I’ve contributed to college and sector publications on the topic.
What’s next on the sustainability agenda at CATS Cambridge?
It’s the start of a new academic year, so the student council will begin by raising awareness of key sustainability issues. This year, energy usage will be an essential theme due to the current global crisis. We’ll also be inviting new members to join to share their ideas. New this year is tracking the changes in the amount of paper used and discarded to discourage the use of printers and think of sustainable alternatives.
What do you think schools can do today to ensure that sustainability is embedded in school life at every level?
First, create opportunities to engage in conversations about sustainability and its importance, and I encourage everyone to lead by example. Make simple swaps that can be easily replicated For instance, everyone should ensure they use the correct bin for recycling. If you see others using the wrong ones, please challenge this and educate them. Go digital where possible and minimise photocopying. All the small actions make a big difference, such as when leaving a classroom, turning off the air conditioning if you know someone is not using the room after you.
Which pioneer do you most admire and why?
Difficult to pinpoint to a single person; so many of the innovations in science and the achievements of others are based on standing on the shoulders of giants, as Newton is often quoted to have said. Much like the sustainable changes at CATS Cambridge, it takes a whole team to make something significant happen, whether a moon landing or a heart surgery.
What is your motto or personal mantra?
Spend more time doing the things you love the most because one day you will either say, “I wish I had” or “I’m glad I did”. I would always rather be in the second camp!