In its Schools White Paper published today: The Importance of Teaching, the government has promised to "develop sustainable approaches to teacher development". These are going to be Teaching Schools it seems, along the medical school model, an idea whose time, it would appear has come round again. Actually, it's not at all clear what will be sustainable about them; I wonder whether any will make a feature of the other sort of sustainability. Let's hope so. Buried in the Paper is the news that the useless TDA is for the chop. Not all bad news, then.
If you hear a dull thud as you read this, it's the digitally-enhanced sound of my heart sinking (again).
At a recent Unesco Executive Board, its panjandrums decided that a special focus on climate change education was just what ESD needed to render it more meaningful. Just to make sure we're all on the same page, in Unesco insider-speak, this is a thematic area of expected results within one of the main lines of action of biennial sectorial priority 36 C/5.
Now, a focus on climate change itself within ESD might just have been ok as part of an integrated programme, as its hard to imagine that this doesn't exist anyway. But climate change education? I think not. Yet another adjectival education to get in the way of more meaningful reform. As the much missed John Smyth reminded us now and again, changing education was the goal, not tinkering around the (already marginalised) margins. Sad, really. Whether it makes any difference on the ground is another matter ...
... is over, for now. The last seven days have found me giving talks in Lüneburg, Paris, London, and finally in Bolton.
On Tuesday I was a guest of the ESD research group in Lüneburg to launch their 2010/11 ESD seminar series. A disappointing audience, especially as I talked for more than an hour. Then by an even more disappointingly slow overnight trains to Paris to join Janice Lawson, Louise Jordan and Jake Reynolds to spend the afternoon with the ESD team at Unesco to give a talk about England's sustainable schools initiative: an even smaller audience but pertint questions. My contribution was about our 'Top Tips' work, now safely archived by the DfE.
Thursday found me speaking at a University and College Union bash on ESD, this time talking (all too briefly) about contrasts between school, FE and university approaches to learning and sustainability. I was talking about the need for freedom and rationality (a la Sen) in curriculum decision-making, whilst my Union hosts talked about equality, justice and solidarity – quite a grand tour in itself: Frances O'Grady was guest of honour. A couple of good questions for me, both coming after a lengthy preamble (as did all the questions).
And so to Bolton, and to the Reebok, to give a keynote at the 2010 Eco-Schools conference. More late night trains and windy platforms, but here I talked for the first time in any detail about the stage descriptors that I evolved last year for GOSW. I did wonder beforehand how my emphasis on the critical importance of school leadership and the involvement of all students would go down, given that Eco-schools hasn't always emphasised these, but I sensed the consensus was with me on this. An impressively large audience with an unusually high proportion of teachers and heads in it. Limited questions but good feedback afterwards. Not a great lunch though: chips, meat and foreign apples to the fore; nice view of the pitch, however.
Thanks to Liane Fredericks at the LSE for pointing to this YouTube video that attempts to explain sustainability. It is based on the Natural Step. I didn't like it at all: all very reasonable, rational and uncomplicated. It makes you wonder how we've not managed to do it!
I didn't think much of the Natural Step either, I seem to remember.
... and pro-environmental behaviour. The SDRN has released this report compiled by Andrew Dobson. The report and a briefing paper are available as pdfs.
It provides an overview of research evidence relating to environmental citizenship, considers the origins of the term, exploring how it is defined and the characteristics of ‘environmental citizens’. It asks whether approaches based on environmental citizenship could be used as a means of encouraging pro-environmental behaviour and sets out more specific policy recommendations for how this may be done. Looking forward to reading it.
Janice Lawson has recently brought together the following 'official' sustainable school links.
a Qualifications and Curriculum Agency leaflet on building sustainable development into the curriculum
Teaching Awards showing national and regional winners in the sustainable schools category
The work of the National College on sustainable schools
Materials produced under the previous government to support sustainable schools
The following statement of support from ministers is on the DfE website:
The government is fully committed to sustainable development and the importance of preparing young people for the future. Our approach to reform is based on the belief that schools perform better when they take responsibility for their own improvement. We want schools to make their own judgements about how sustainable development should be reflected in their ethos, day to day operations and through education for sustainable development. Those judgements should be based on sound knowledge and local needs. The good practice materials that underpin the national framework for sustainable schools are available through the department's website"
Good. Just what was needed; well done to Janice Lawson and Louise Jordan. The "about how" in the third sentence is hugely significant when compared to the existing default position of "about whether".
To Lewes, yesterday, for the latest FERN meeting; as always, good to meet up to discuss research and environmental / sustainability education. A modest, but quality, turn-out.
The main event of the day was to visit the Railway Land Project and to hear from the inspiring John Parry about its development (actually, his development of it) over 20+ years: inspiration, vision, perspiration and persistence – and a trust that the real and open involvement of a wide range of local people is the best way to create something of lasting social value – a process that never ends, of course.
Visit this if you can to see their new building, the reserves, and their work. Better still, organise something there and put some resource into the project's further development.
A report in yesterday's Times (sorry, no link possible) about crop breeders developing glossy plants that will reflect more sunlight than duller varieties, and thus combat climate change. Well, fine, but if there weren't so much prejudice against GMOs this would surely be just the time for Dulux to step forward and develop its own wheat varieties – gloss rather than matt, I presume.
I heard this morning that I have won £475,000 in this United Nations "online international program" – and I didn't even have to apply. Now, haven't I always said that the UN was wonderful? All I have to do, it seems, it to hand over all my bank account details to a Mrs Miller ... .