Welsh school inspectors report on ESDGC

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This report is published in response to a request for advice from the Welsh Government.  It reports on the progress that primary, secondary and special schools have made in education for sustainable development and global citizenship (ESDGC) since 2006 when Estyn published its baseline report: Establishing a position statement for Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship in Wales.

This report is based on evidence gathered from inspections using Estyn’s Supplementary guidance for inspectors on Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship in schools which is structured around the seven suggested themes identified by UNESCO as part of the  ESD Decade and the Welsh Government’s Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship – A Common Understanding for Schools (2008).

This report's main findings are:

Pupils’ understanding of sustainable development and global citizenship

1  In the majority of the schools visited for this survey, pupils’ understanding of the key concepts of sustainable development and global citizenship develops appropriately as pupils progress through school and is generally secure for each of the seven themes for ESDGC.  There is now no significant difference between pupils’ understanding of sustainable development and their understanding of global citizenship.  This is an improvement since 2006 when understanding of global citizenship was not as well developed.

Sustainable development

2  Pupils are often very interested in the natural environment and their understanding of it is generally good.  Almost all pupils understand that they depend on the environment for energy, food and other resources.  Many pupils understand the need to conserve energy, but often in terms of saving money rather than resources.

3  In the best schools, pupils’ understanding of consumption and waste develops well.  They understand where the things they consume come from and where waste goes, although only a minority understand the interdependence of producers and consumers.  Few understand the difference between ‘standard of living’ and ‘quality of life.’

4  Few Foundation Phase or key stage 2 pupils understand the difference between climate and weather, but almost all pupils in the secondary schools visited understand the concept of climate change and global warming and many can explain the implications for the way we live.

Global citizenship

5  Pupils in all key stages generally have an appropriate understanding of the concepts of wealth and poverty and some of their implications. Almost all pupils have an understanding of the effects of inequality on people’s lives and understand the types of support charities can provide for people in need.  Almost all pupils in the secondary schools visited have a good understanding of the inequalities that exist between people in different countries, and between people within countries.

6  Pupils in schools with a high proportion of ethnic minority pupils generally have a better understanding of the effect of discrimination and prejudice on individuals than pupils in other schools.  Few pupils at key stages 3 and 4 have a good understanding of identity and culture, including complex concepts such as the link between culture, faith and individual value systems and beliefs.

7  Almost all pupils in the schools visited can give examples of ways in which they make choices and decisions that affect school life.  They influence the work of the school through groups such as the school council, eco-committee or healthy living group.  They realise that actions have consequences and generally know how to minimise personal conflicts.

8  Almost all pupils in the schools visited understand the principles of how to care for their own health and that of others.  They have a secure understanding of the importance of eating healthily and taking regular exercise.  Almost all key stage 2 pupils understand about the negative effects of pollution, tobacco and alcohol on their health and most pupils at key stages 3 and 4 understand that there are ways in which health and quality of life can be improved in countries around the world.

Vision, policy, planning and promoting ESDGC

9  In most of the schools visited, leaders have a clear vision for promoting ESDGC.  The schools with the most effective policies for developing ESDGC have a clear definition and understanding of ESDGC and what it means for their staff and pupils in the context of their school and beyond. This clarity in understanding ESDGC has improved since 2006.

10  The majority of the schools visited have effective plans for developing and delivering ESDGC.  Almost all schools teach aspects of ESDGC effectively through a variety of subjects.  In a minority of the schools, planning is not systematic and relies too much on discrete and uncoordinated projects for coverage.  This results in pupils having a limited understanding of the impact of their actions in respect of ESDGC. Where planning in secondary schools is most effective, teachers who specialise in specific subjects plan the coverage of ESDGC together.  This strengthens the provision and ensures that teachers who have a stronger understanding of the more complex aspects of ESDGC teach them. This results in pupils having a deeper understanding of these aspects.

11  Schools with the most effective planning include opportunities for pupils to develop their numeracy, literacy and thinking skills within cross-curricular thematic projects that focus on ESDGC.  However, in many of the schools visited, teachers do not incorporate good enough opportunities for pupils to use their literacy and numeracy skills in ESDGC work. This has not improved since 2006.

12  All the schools visited provide a wide range of extra-curricular and other activities to promote ESDGC and extend pupils’ knowledge and experience. All the schools visited follow at least one accredited scheme in areas related to ESDGC.  However, few schools collect evidence to assess the impact that following these schemes has had on pupils’ understanding of ESDGC concepts.

Leadership, management and support for ESDGC

13  Where schools have identified members of staff with clear responsibility for leading and developing ESDGC, the provision is generally effective and pupils’ understanding of key concepts is at least good.  Where responsibilities are not clear enough, this is not the case.

14  The confidence of teachers in delivering ESDGC is high in many of the schools visited. Where training has not been a priority, members of staff lack confidence in teaching the more complex concepts related to ESDGC.  Most schools visited would benefit from further training in specific aspects of ESDGC.  A directory of good practice contacts would be helpful.

15  Most of the schools visited include aspects of ESDGC within their self-evaluation procedures.  Leaders generally evaluate the planning and delivery, but very few schools evaluate the impact of provision on pupils’ understanding of ESDGC.

16  Many of the schools visited have a member of the governing body with particular responsibility for ESDGC.  Very few governors have received training other than from the school or feel confident enough to challenge the schools in relation to ESDGC.


This is encouraging stuff, especially compared to the 2006 report, but it's far from wholly positive as a closer reading of the whole report reveals.  More on that anon, no doubt.

Estyn note

"The findings and recommendations are based on an analysis of Estyn inspection findings from primary, secondary and special schools from 2010 to 2013 and visits to a representative sample of 10 primary schools, 10 secondary schools and two special schools.  The sample includes examples of schools exemplifying good practice in ESDGC.  During the visits to schools, inspectors interviewed members of the senior management team, teachers with responsibility for developing ESDGC, a sample of pupils and pupil members of relevant committees.  They also scrutinised pupils’ work and relevant displays around the schools."

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