Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Monthly Archives: November 2014

Pity Hefce – to think it was once world-leading

📥  Comment, News and Updates

In the summer, ELSA, the English Learning and Sustainability Alliance, wrote to David Willetts MP (now reshuffled off the ministerial coil).  The focus, broadly speaking, was to wonder whether the Department for Business, Industry and Skills [BIS] might pump some lead into Hefce's increasingly limp sustainability pencil.

The response took many months, but the delay happily allowed Greg Clark MP (the new Willetts) to trot out a bunch of odorous nonsense to the effect that, because Hefce has been feted by UNESCO's recent end of term report, all must be well.  As such, we are invited by Clark to:

"... share [his] delight in the recent favourable verdict on Hefce's work in ... sustainability".

Well, I won't, as I see that aspect of the UNESCO report as utterly self-serving in these matters; that is, those who've been on the receiving end of Hefce largesse over the years have contributed to the report saying, unsurprisingly, how well Hefce has done. There's a word for this sort of thing.

The point is that the ELSA enquiry was about the future, whereas Clark's lazy response is all about the past.  Hefce used to walk the talk in these matters; now, it doesn't even talk it.  From world-leading to world-trailing in short order.  Quite a triumph for BIS, Hefce, and its sustainability-sceptic leadership.  All very sad and quite unnecessary.

Trick or Treat Stats

📥  Comment, News and Updates

It seems that US citizens spent some $7.4bn in the run up to Hallowe'en.  This included:

  • $2.2bn on confectionery ("candy")
  • $1.1bn on costumes – for kids
  • $1.4bn on costumes – for adults
  • $0.35bn on costumes – for pets

That's ~$15 each, on average.  Much of this expenditure will have been on imported goods.  Then there were all those pumpkins.  All good for GDP, of course.


Another day – another letter to ministers

📥  Comment, New Publications

Steve Martin and I have sent this letter to Nicky Morgan.  I do not anticipate a positive response.

Dear Secretary of State,

Education and Sustainable Development-The UK Government’s Response?

UNESCO’s Director-General, the Crown Prince of Japan and Princess Lalla Hasna of Morocco - the President of the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment - opened the World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Aichi-Nagoya, Japan on Monday, 10 November.

This high level conference marked the end of the UN Decade of ESD (2005-2014) and created a Roadmap to launch the Global Action Programme (GAP), a follow-up to the Decade that will propose new educational goals and objectives, priority action areas and strategies.

Under the banner Learning Today for a Sustainable Future, more than 1,000 participants from over 100 countries attended, including representatives of UNESCO Member States, NGOs, academia, the private sector, individual experts, youth and UN agencies. Nearly 60 foreign ministers and 17 deputy ministers, mainly representing Ministries of Education attended. But regrettably, none from the UK. Yet the UK has some good stories to tell from all sectors of the educational spectrum and especially in Scotland and Wales as was set out in a recent UK National Commission for UNESCO Policy Brief in 2013.

At its closing, the Conference announced the Aichi-Nagoya Declaration,which has the potential to be an important contribution to the new sustainable development goals(SDGs) that come into effect in 2015.  It also provides an important input to the World Education Forum, taking place in Incheon, Republic of Korea, next May.

If as the UK Government believes "sustainable development is a key responsibility for all of us and everyone has to play their part in making it a reality" ( DFE Web site), and that schools, as places of teaching and learning, have a particularly important role to play in helping pupils understand the impact they have on the planet, it is hardly comprehensible why a UK senior minister and or civil servant could not be in attendance. Your department argues that, as models of good practice, schools can be places where sustainable living and working are demonstrated to young people and the local community. All of which is embraced by the idea of education for sustainable development (ESD). ESD can be thought of as a process of learning how to make decisions that consider the long-term future of the economy, ecology and equity of all communities. As UNESCO puts it: "Building the capacity for such futures-oriented thinking is a key task of education." Indeed, the UK’s capacity to enact the government’s aspirations for a green economy will depend upon it.

Any child starting primary school in September 2014 will complete its secondary education in around 2028. No one can predict with any certainty how the world will change over this period, but it is likely to change in many significant ways. An expanding population, increasing globalisation and advances in technology, will bring colossal societal and ecological changes, particularly if our unsustainable practices and lifestyles prevail. Without significant policy interventions, more people will be consuming more resources; climate change will cause global temperatures to increase; demand for food will double globally; more than four million people in the UK will have diabetes and we will have an ageing population. This is just a taste of what our children's future might look like.

Shouldn’t the UK have been a part of these international deliberations-and indeed will the government be represented at any further discussions about “future proofing” their learning.

We believe this is crucial if they are to play an active and responsible role in an increasingly complex and uncertain world.

We look forward to hearing your views.

We are copying this to Sir Peter Luff, SM’s constituency MP, who has supported SM on a number of occasions in promoting environmental matters relating to educational policy (see Hansard).

Yours Sincerely

Stephen Martin, Visiting Professor in Learning for Sustainability, University of the West of England

William Scott, Emeritus Professor University of Bath


The other side of the COIN

📥  Comment, New Publications

A recent report "Young Voices", from COIN, says research shows current climate engagement strategies are failing to reach young people.  Adam Corner, COIN’s Research Director, said:

“Our research suggests that many young people care deeply and passionately about climate change. However, there has been a collective failure to talk to young people about climate change in a way that inspires them.  Too many assumptions have been made by communicators, which haven’t been tested.  Working directly with young people we have been able to trial a series of narratives about climate change, providing valuable insights for anyone interested in improving communication about climate change with this group.”

Some of the key findings and recommendations from the report include:

  • For young people, climate change is fundamentally about the ‘here and now’ – describing the effect it will have on future generations, as campaigners and scientists often do, undermines the urgency of the problem.
  • Young people want to hear how climate change relates to (and will affect) those aspects of their everyday lives that they are passionate about – but communicators must take care not to ‘trivialise’ the issue by failing to link the ‘personal’ to the ‘political’.
  • Fighting organised scepticism is mostly seen as a waste of energy by young people – scepticism is relatively uncommon among the young and talking ‘solutions not science’ is a much better approach.
  • Young people often find it hard to talk about climate change with their peers – there was a fear that talking about climate change would set them apart as ‘preachy’ or ‘un-cool’.
  • There is widespread doubt that there is a ‘concerned majority’ among the general public who support action on climate change – communicating a ‘social consensus’ on climate action may be just as important as the scientific consensus.
  • Young people have very little faith in mainstream politicians – so it makes more sense to ask young people to challenge (not support) politicians on climate policies.  Campaign messages should clearly set out what needs to be done – who, when, where and what young people can do to make a difference – and which policy prescriptions support this.
  • Climate jargon is unfamiliar and off-putting – phrases like ‘managing climate risks’, ‘decarbonisation’ and ‘2 degrees’ are seen as hollow and vague.  People want to hear about specific policies and how these relate to protecting the things people love and are passionate about.

Indeed.  It's not just the young who are confused, and the heart of the problem lies in the first bullet:

For young people, climate change is fundamentally about the ‘here and now’ – describing the effect it will have on future generations, as campaigners and scientists often do, undermines the urgency of the problem.

But climate change is not fundamentally about what is happening in the ‘here and now', at least not in relation to large impacts.  Political action and communication has to involve explaining what life might be like, if we keep on doing A, or don't start to do B.  And for that, you need evidence.

Meanwhile, the EU is only directly responsible for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions  – a number that is set to fall, not rise – which means that the UK's contribution is ~1.5% – another number set to fall – and the price of Brent Crude is now $80.



Very forgettable samosas

📥  Comment, Talks and Presentations

I had hoped that no matter how dull the seminar in Birmingham last Friday might turn out to be, the samosas would be brilliant.  Not so; the samosas were dull: flaccid, pasty confections; happily, the rest of the lunch on offer was rather good, even though it wasn't obviously labelled, fair-trade, shade-grown, organic, locally-sourced, farm-fresh, free-range, red-tractor, etc, etc.

The seminar turned out (as I'd expected) to be ok as well with a good mix of inputs, discussion and reaction, and it was certainly good to be inside the Council House rather than outside in Victoria Square where those attending the German Christmas market (November 21st??) were caught in the cold drizzle and were forced to eat sausage and drink dodgy German beer to keep warm.  And to think that they might have been drinking Hereford Pale Ale in the warm, if only they'd walked up the road.

More on this – the seminar, I mean – when the inputs are available to share.  Meanwhile, my quest for excellence in samosas continues ...


Children, their World, their Education

📥  Comment, Talks and Presentations

I'm in Birmingham at the "Children, their World, their Education" seminar organised by Tide~ global learning, the Cambridge Primary Review Trust, and Birmingham City Council.  The blurb for the event says:

Children and young people are growing up into an uncertain, unequal and interdependent world, where questions about sustainability, security and justice play a large role.  This seminar for teachers and other educators shares recent developments concerning schools, sustainability and global learning on the national and international stage, and invites participants to discuss the possibilities and challenges for our school system.

The speakers are Professor Robin Alexander, Chair of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust, and past-President of the British Association for International and Comparative Education, and Cathryn Gathercole, Director of Tide~ global learning.

More on all this, no doubt, but it is good to see sustainability and global learning being so clearly linked. And here's something else to agree wholeheartedly with:

“The children who were most confident that climate change need not overwhelm them were those whose schools had decided to replace unfocussed fear by factual information and practical strategies.”

   Children, their World, their Education: final report of the Cambridge Primary Review

All this, and samosas for lunch.  What more could you wish?


Don't they know it's time to revive the media profile of ageing rockers

📥  Comment, News and Updates

I'm not going to buy Band Aid 30.  Neither, it seems, is Fuse ODG who has been put off by the patronising view of Africa that the whole idea represents.  Indeed!  Not that this is new.  The original Band Aid had that problem from the outset, as has much of the media representation of both the continent and individual countries.  What was the last 'good news' story you saw on TV news about things African?  Aspects of development education has suffered from this problem for a while, and I vividly recall, not so long ago, sitting through a teacher INSET session on Ghana which consisted of making beads.

Given that African music can be so wonderful, and that there is so much of it available, I found myself wondering why this wasn't being used to promote charitable giving in relation to Ebola.  Silly me!  No where near enough scope for the bulging egos of ageing rockers who could give millions on their own if they cared to.  Happily, there are plenty of UK charity options for all good Bono-refusniks.  Go on ...

And for a witty comment on the whole sad business – Band Aid, that is – you could do worse than look at RADI-AID.



Greenpeace in bed with climate sceptics – how did it come to this?

📥  Comment, News and Updates

When your guiding principle is that your enemy's enemy will have to be your friend, you run all sorts of risks.  You've only got to examine American Cold War policy about supporting dictatorships and terrorists to see that, not to mention the madness of some of the current political groupings in the EU parliament.

Greenpeace is now seeing the unwisdom of having this as a policy as it finds itself in bed with a bunch of climate change deniers just because they're also mindlessly opposed to all things GM.  Here's Mark Lynas on the unprincipled mess that has resulted  – mostly for the EU's hard-pressed taxpayers.




Aichi-Nagoya 9 – Finally: a Testament of Youth

📥  Comment, News and Updates

My last word on the ESDFest.  Sadly, this has not been written by Vera Brittain.

It is a Youth Statement that was adopted at the UNESCO ESD Youth Conference in Okayama, Japan, on 7 November, to provide "a vision, commitment, and recommendations from youth for advancing ESD beyond 2014 in line with the Global Action Programme on ESD".  It represents the voices of 50 ESD youth leaders in the conference, who in turn represent thousands of young people around the globe, and also includes contributions from over a hundred youth who participated in pre-conference online discussions.

Given how many "youth" there are in the world, I really do doubt that anything here "represents" anyone very much.  However, here it is in all its prolix completeness:

Vision for a Sustainable Future

We invite you to take a moment as you read this statement to hold in your heart your loved ones: your children, their children and those that will follow. Imagine – as we have – how the decisions that we make today will impact each and every one of them. Reflect – as we have – on the importance and value of this youth statement to their lives, as well as to ours.

Our statement captures the voices and visions of thousands of youth from around the world who are strongly represented and have widely contributed to this global call – from the experiences of an environmental educator in Madagascar, to the creative approaches of a biomimic in Bahrain; from empowering indigenous youth in Thailand to innovating with gaming platforms in Moldova. Our journeys are different, yet our destination is the same. We come from different backgrounds – a rich diversity of race, colour, religion and belief – yet our vision is one. Our voices are united.

Together, we stand for a sustainable, resilient and equitable society in which every person in every corner of the world has the opportunity to thrive. We strongly believe that Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is fundamental to achieving this vision. ESD provides the empowering mechanism through which we can transform the critical sustainability challenges that we face into opportunities. It must be the essence of education. Without ESD we cannot move forward.

Young people play a vital role in advancing the ESD agenda. The implications of our collective decisions and actions will shape our reality and our future. We are committed to lead, yet we cannot do this alone, and neither can you: Together, we must empower and mobilize youth around the globe! This document presents our strategic recommendations to achieve this, building on the UNESCO Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development.

We urgently call for a multi-stakeholder commitment to and collaboration on these recommendations. We acknowledge and celebrate the existing efforts of the frontrunners who have led us this far. For many of us, the journey has already begun. For those just starting, we invite you to come with us.



a) Ensure the active involvement of youth in policy planning, implementation and evaluation. Youth should be recognized as a key stakeholder at all levels, domains and stages of educational governance. Through this, youth will be able to shape policies to strengthen ESD.

b) Ensure that policies drive ESD with the urgency it requires and in a holistic, just and gender responsive way. Policies should address the multiple dimensions of sustainable development and drive immediate action to realize sustainable development in the here and now.

c) All relevant stakeholders should allocate resources to empower youth as change agents for ESD. Governments, civil society organizations, youth councils, communities and businesses should allocate financial, technical and human resources to enable the implementation of ESD policies and the recommendations of this declaration.


a) Educational institutions and governments should provide the institutional support, resources and legitimacy for youth-led change processes towards sustainability. This requires a combination of bottom-up initiatives and top-down steering. Mechanisms should include dedicated funding, institutional integration, working space, mandates, recognition, and training for youth-led sustainability initiatives.

b) Enhance collective action among sustainability initiatives. Educational institutions should support the joint efforts of pupils, students, staff and the local community. This requires the development of common visions and identities, places of encounter, projects and programmes which are shared among all stakeholders.

c) Recognize youth as equal partners to accelerate the operational transformation of educational institutions towards sustainability. Educational institutions should practice what they teach, by generating positive environmental impacts. In collaboration with staff, youth should become change agents and decision-makers in environmental management, including issues of energy, food, water, waste, buildings and biodiversity on campus.


a) Recognize that all citizens have the potential and responsibility to act as facilitators for ESD. To educate billions of people on sustainability challenges and opportunities, the mobilization of educators and trainers needs to reach beyond those in traditional educational institutions. Youth, professionals, practitioners and citizens across all levels and sectors need to be mobilized as ESD educators and trainers.

b) Build capacities of youth as trainers and peer-to-peer educators for ESD. Youth should be empowered to educate a critical mass of peers, parents, friends and communities on ESD. This requires special support and attention from professional trainers and educational institutions.

c) Enhance the capacity of existing educators and trainers to empower youth to engage on ESD issues. Teachers, educators and trainers need to learn about the new methods, technologies and approaches of ESD-based education. This requires supportive mechanisms such as online trainings and forums, toolkits, funds, peer-to-peer learning and support networks.


a) Educational institutions and governments should encourage and support youth and educators to experiment with innovative learning approaches. ESD is different from traditional education. It thus requires experimentation with alternative technologies as well as creative and experiential methods to break through conventional mindsets and find the best ways to educate youth.

b) Monitor and evaluate these learning approaches to determine their effectiveness and efficiency in promoting ESD. Educational institutions, governments and educators need to develop indicators, frameworks and processes to evaluate the diversity of experiments with ESD in order to identify what works in different institutional and geographic settings.

c) Scale the impact of successful learning approaches to different geographic and institutional contexts. Successful learning approaches need to be de-contextualised and codified, in order to be then replicated across geographic locations, increased in scale and integrated into mainstream policies. Dedicated funding, recognition, high-level backing and leadership are key to realizing all three of the above recommendations.


a) Respect the voices of youth in community-driven ESD initiatives. International agencies, governments and civil society organizations should respect the voices of youth when implementing ESD initiatives in communities. This requires that youth are involved in the identification, design and implementation of ESD-related community problems and solutions.

b) Support youth-led ESD initiatives in local communities. ESD forms a strong foundation for the economic growth of local communities and the protection of ecosystems. Realizing this potential requires training, mentoring and sponsorship of youth-led ESD initiatives, supported by educational institutions, companies, civil society organizations and governments.

c) Encourage youth to engage with and learn through real-life situations. Local communities should be positively impacted by ESD and provide a source of learning and inspiration. This requires promoting social service-learning, transdisciplinary education and research, living laboratories, learning centers and online education.


a) Enable all youth to understand and critically appreciate the complexities and uncertainties of sustainability challenges and opportunities. In order to undertake effective action on ESD, young people need to understand the interconnected socio-cultural, economic and technological systems and trends that create persistent sustainability problems.

b) Empower youth to develop visions of more sustainable futures. Through dialogue and facilitated interactions, young learners need to be supported in developing daring, radical and challenging visions of a more sustainable world. Those visions then provide the inspiration and rationales for youth-led sustainability efforts.

c) Equip students with the competencies to transform their personal lives, educational institutions, communities and countries. To realize their sustainability visions, youth need to be equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills and values for transforming themselves and the unsustainable systems in their society. Encouragement, feedback and recognition from educators, peers and educational institutions are necessary to strengthen their confidence and motivation along the journey.


a) Ensure that educational curricula and policies drive ESD in a way that enhances the equality and equity of socially marginalized groups. Socially marginalized groups are vulnerable and difficult to reach through ESD activities, as they are discriminated against for reasons of gender, age, ability, colour, religion, income, geographic origin and sexual preference, among others.

b) Recognize the values, experiences and perspectives of youth from marginalized social groups for ESD. Youth from marginalized social groups can provide unique, relevant and interesting values, experiences and perspectives to the education of mainstream and privileged students. Sharing those requires intercultural, interfaith and intergenerational dialogue to create mutual understanding and acceptance.

c) Create safe and accessible learning spaces for youth from marginalized social groups. Specific conditions need to be put in place for empowering youth from marginalized social groups to participate in ESD activities. This requires, among others, deconstructing stereotypes and providing financial support and facilitated encounters.


a) Recognize the importance of social entrepreneurship to contribute to the goals of ESD. Governments and educational institutions should recognize that social entrepreneurship enables young people to learn about ESD in an informal setting, to create jobs, set up their own ESD activities, and have positive impacts on their local communities.

b) Create favourable policy and funding conditions for new social start-ups. In order to realize the potential of social entrepreneurship to contribute to ESD, governments and financial institutions need to provide subsidies, tax allowances, scholarships, guidance and mentoring schemes to support young entrepreneurs.

c) Develop the capacity of youth to set up and manage their social enterprises. Educational institutions, businesses and civil society organizations should foster the entrepreneurial knowledge, awareness and skills of youth. This requires dedicated courses, peer-to-peer coaching, mentoring, start-up funding and office space, among others.

Youth Empowering and Mobilizing Youth

Across the globe, youth are increasingly mobilizing themselves and taking leadership roles to advance their communities and countries towards sustainability. In this process, young people recognize that creating a sustainable future will require a collective vision, commitment and action from youth around the world. Therefore, youth-to-youth empowerment and mobilization present a unique opportunity for harnessing the knowledge, energy and creativity of young people to advance ESD.

Young leaders on ESD can be inspirational role models for encouraging other youth who share similar concerns in their local contexts. This can be achieved through peer mentoring, sharing of knowledge and skills, and fostering open and safe platforms for expression and action in their communities and beyond.

A critical element of successfully mobilizing youth is building trust and reducing conflict. Stimulating international and intercultural dialogue amongst youth fosters friendship, exchanges, understanding and cooperation among cultures and generations and people with different worldviews. Youth recognition of diversity as an opportunity contributes to advancing ESD at local, national and global levels.

Youth-to-youth empowerment initiatives have the potential to be bold and creative in the way they tell stories and mobilize others. It is here that other stakeholders can harness and partner with the creativity, passion and dedication of young people. In this way, youth-to-youth initiatives can continue growing, spreading the message and creating more impact.

We, the youth of the world, commit to taking responsibility for empowering and mobilizing young people. We are dedicated to using this collective driving force to maximize positive impact on our society and environment. With this role as change makers, we are ready to do our part in transforming today’s world for a more sustainable.


That's it.  All very worthy, and no doubt good training for a future role in UNESCO politics, but its surely far too pretentious – and long – for anyone to take much notice.

That's it – until the nest time.