Anxiety in Schools (Environmental Concerns) bill

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

A backbench MP has proposed an Anxiety in Schools (Environmental Concerns) bill which includes guidance for schools on how to reduce their students' anxiety about the environment.  This is in response to surveys (and anecdotal evidence) which indicate that, to one extent or another, eco-anxiety is affecting well over a third of young people.

No doubt the DfE will resist this with its usual patrician indifference.  But it really should take it seriously as too many youngsters seem to think that the planet is doomed.  This mood is exacerbated by Greta Thunberg's limited range of responses to the issues, and she is soon to have her own BBC programmes to advance her theories.  Heaven help us.

It seems clear that most schools have not responded well to the challenge they face from their student activists who are calling (they used to be on the streets every month) for actions.  Too many schools are hiding behind what DfE ministers say about how the national curriculum covers the climate and ecological issues.  The Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP must be tired of writing the same old response about how well this is done.  I have my own collection of his efforts, and I've tried selling these gems on ebay but there are no takers.

Overt advice to schools is overdue.  This could have five overlapping elements: advice about ...

– reforming the curriculum (formal, informal and hidden)

– running the school in a more sustainable way

– confronting and combatting student anxiety

– helping teachers deal with students' questions

– giving practical advice to students about taking action themselves at home and abroad.

There is no shortage of groups out here who know what might sensibly be encouraged.  They lack co-ordination, of course, but that's not the point.  Crucially, they lack the leadership of the only organisation that really matters in education policy: the DfE.  If it ever gets round to speaking sense, schools will listen, and students might just be encouraged rather than despairing.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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  • This issue of eco-anxiety and pupil wellbeing is one which a research project that I am working on is trying to address. We are using the Capabilities Approach from Nussbaum and Sen to analyse our work, and we are working with art and artists to both reveal the form that these anxieties take for young children, and to think about how children might think about them in imaginative and creative ways. Our project is funded by the AHRC; the Eco-Capabilities project. We aim to have some outcomes that can support teachers who are dealing with children facing these questions.