"They do it differently, they do it better, and ...

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... they did it yesterday" is an observation that is sometimes remarked of the Scots – quite often, it has to be said, by the Scots.  However, when it comes to ESD – or Learning for Sustainability – as they prefer to term it, this could not be more true when compared to other parts of the UK, and, I suspect much farther afield.

A while back, the Scottish Government established a One Planet Schools working group, chaired by Professor Peter Higgins (Edinburgh), to provide strategic advice and direction to support the implementation of a manifesto commitment which stated that:

"We welcome proposals for the creation of One Planet schools, and will look at ways of developing this concept.  This will include action to continue the development of professional standards around sustainability education and leadership within our schools on environmental issues”.

The report of the Group, Learning for Sustainability, was published in December 2012.  In this, Learning for Sustainability was defined as:

"A whole school approach that enables the school and its wider community to build the values, attitudes, knowledge, skills and confidence needed to develop practices and take decisions which are compatible with a sustainable and equitable society".

The report contained 31 recommendations, including these 5 overarching ones:

  1. All learners should have an entitlement to learning for sustainability
  2. In line with the new GTCS Professional Standards, every practitioner, school and education leader should demonstrate learning for sustainability in their practice
  3. Every school should have a whole school approach to learning for sustainability that is robust, demonstrable, evaluated and supported by leadership at all levels
  4. School buildings, grounds and policies should support learning for sustainability
  5. A strategic national approach to supporting learning for sustainability should be established

Yesterday, the Scottish Government formally welcomed the report at a conference at Murrayfield.  Its response is here.  Here's what Dr Alasdair Allan, Scotland's Minister for Learning, Sciences and Scotland’s Languages, had to say ...

Scotland has a distinguished history and international reputation recognised by UNESCO and others for sustainable development education, global citizenship and outdoor learning, which are firmly embedded within Curriculum for Excellence.  Learning for sustainability encompasses all of these themes and approaches and sets out recommendations to build on successful practice in Scotland.  The approach being recommended complements the General Teaching Council Scotland's new Professional Standards which affirm the importance of values and learning for sustainability.

I am very appreciative of the careful consideration and hard work of the members of the One Planet Schools Working Group, chaired by Professor Pete Higgins, in preparing the Learning for Sustainability report and would also like to acknowledge all those who have informed the Scottish Government’s consideration of the response to the report.   As we approach the end of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and celebrate the Year of Natural Scotland, it is timely that we take a  strategic approach to build on successful practice and help ensure that great learning for sustainability which helps young people develop as responsible global citizens is the experience of all.

Learning for Sustainability provides a strategic agenda which needs leadership at all levels to remove barriers and enable a coherent whole school approach that encompasses the curriculum, campus, culture and community of the school.  As the report makes clear, it does not ask anything of educators that is not already implied by Curriculum for Excellence, the new GTCS Professional Standards and Teaching Scotland’s Future which set the direction for professional learning.

I am pleased to welcome the report and, on behalf of the Scottish Government, accept all the recommendations, almost all in full.  A Learning for Sustainability Implementation Group will be established in collaboration with the new Regional Centre for Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development and a range of partners to drive forward the recommendations on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Happily for the Scots, but less so for those of us beyond the English Marches, this brings into sharp relief the difference between Scotland and England.  Scottish schools are being given leadership, a positive steer, and a coherent framing of the issues to work within, but left free to determine how this should play out in their own circumstances.  English schools, by contrast, have to make do with the last of these.  It's an austerity of sorts ...

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, News and Updates


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