To Sustainability and beyond: inspecting and reporting on progress in sustainable development

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This is the title of a new publication from Ofsted.   The document is commendably brief – and I note that its focus is on sustainability / sustainable development, not ESD, which probably explains some of the lack of emphasis on learning, and the lack of focus on the need to encourage and enable critical understanding.  Ofsted will, no doubt, say that this is implied in : "appropriate knowledge, skills, understanding and values to participate in decisions ... ", but it's only 'there' if you already know it should be.

Then there's "Sustainable development is the name given to the process of developing our society to move from where we are now to a state of sustainability"  as I don't know anyone who seriously believes in "a state of sustainability".  Just as golden ages never existed in the past, they cannot do so in the future.  In the same vein, we have: "Undertaking sustainable development and achieving sustainability".   Here "... and becoming more sustainable" would have been the better idea – or "... less unsustainable".  This conceptual misunderstanding is found throughout the document which is a pity as it may mislead (or confuse) some schools.  This sits oddly when compared to the Ofsted briefing for section 5 inspectors on sustainable development which has a more clearer understanding of  these ideas.

It is also a pity that the report isn't explicit about the opportunity for critical, open-minded / open-ended, student engagement  and learning that ALL the various school foci on sustainable development bring – with the need to integrate what happens across campus / community and curriculum, and the imperative of helping young people make sense of it all.  Again, I'm sure Ofsted will say that it's implied, but ... .   A missed opportunity.

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  • I believe in a state of sustainability. I'm none too optimistic that we have much chance of reaching such a state, but surely it's fundamental that we should be trying to.

    I don't see that a state of sustainability is necessarily a golden age. Ultimately it is just about achieving the potential of long-term survival (hopefully of a society that embodies our key ideals) and realistically that is not likely to be pretty. I've unloaded a lot of what I used to think of as self-defining ideals, mainly environmental and some developmental, to focus on the central ethos of sustainability. This is not an easy process.

    I do note in the Ofsted report that they define sustainable development as "the simple idea of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, both now and for generations to come" - now that, I grant you, is a 'golden-age' vision.

  • This appears to be a cop-out by people who just find sustainability &/or sustainable development far too 'complex' within the existing frameworks of educational systems and their respective evaluative systems - 'let's just break it down again into a linear process, without engaging with the philosophy of learning' - this is just not going to work, and will simply perpetuate the lack of understand of sustainability. environmental education, education for sustainability etc... continuing the engagement by the few and not the many.........BUT going back to the positive, so much good work has and is being done, but OFSTED need to learn how to recognise this and to use that process to develop understanding further......... just some of my thoughts Jo