Here are a couple of further comments on the letter that Steve Martin and I got from the DfE just before New Year. I have already written about the "we were busy reorganising" excuse they gave for not going to Japan.
1. Even though most of the response was about the English school curriculum, it came from the International Education section of the DfE. This is focused on education in other countries, rather than on the idea of 'international education', which helps explain why, historically, this section's interest in ESD and the like has been, at best, minimalist. IE majors on things to do with PISA and PIRLS & TIMSS which means it's now seen as rather important, even if its work has nothing to do with curriculum.
2. I thought this paragraph particularly revealing:
Schools may incorporate sustainable development in their teaching within the broad framework of the citizenship curriculum. Additionally, the new programmes of study for geography and science cover this issue from key stage 3 and focus on the key concepts in science and geography, rather than political, economic or social debates on this topic. In order for children to develop a firm understanding of climate change, it is essential that it is taught as a carefully sequenced progression, starting with the fundamental concepts and relevant background knowledge which underpin this topic.
And there was I thinking that "concepts and ... knowledge" and "political, economic or social debate" went rather well together – in an ESD2 sense. Poor, deluded me! Note also, the "or" in the previous line, as if the social, economic, environmental and political can ever be separated. In the DfE mind, it seems they can.
3. This mantra:
The Government is very supportive of opportunities being made available to schools in England to incorporate education for sustainable development (ESD) into their teaching but believes that schools themselves are best placed to make decisions about how they do this. In our recent review of the national curriculum, one of our key aims was to give teaching professionals more autonomy to decide what and how to teach.
... now looks rather threadbare, as the claim about greater space and autonomy seems more evident in rhetoric than practice.
It is the lack of encouragement, however, that is the most disappointing and dispiriting factor here. Encouragement costs nothing, but even that was too high a price for Mr Gove to pay; Ms Morgan continues his penny-pinching ways.