The DfE explains itself

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

Some of the members of UKSCN have been persistent in asking their MPs to get DfE to explain in greater detail just how the English school curriculum is so good (as DfE claims) at helping young people understand climate change and the ecological crisis we face.

An interesting upshot of this has been a reply sent from Nick Gibb MP, the DfE Minister of State for School Standards, via Michael Gove a student's MP.  It is unusually detailed and goes well beyond the fairly bland reply that Gibb usually provides.

Judge for your self:


"Dear Michael,

Thank you for your email of 24 February, addressed to the Secretary of State, enclosing correspondence from your constituent, Mr Calum McDougall, regarding climate change in the curriculum.  I am replying as Minister of State for School Standards.

As Mr McDougall is aware, climate change and related topics are developed throughout both the primary and secondary curriculums for science and geography.  Science is a compulsory subject for state maintained schools from Key Stage 1 to 4, while geography is compulsory from Key Stage 1 to 3.  All pupils in state maintained schools will therefore learn about climate change, including its causes and consequences.  Academies and free schools are also required to teach science as part of a curriculum that is similar in breadth and ambition to the National Curriculum.

The current curriculum was developed alongside experts in the science and education communities, including subject specialists, teachers and representatives from Ofsted and learned societies, amongst others.  It sets out a clear, coherent sequence of content to ensure appropriate introduction and development of key scientific concepts and understanding.  However, the curriculum deliberately gives teachers and schools the flexibility to decide how it should be taught.

Primary science and geography therefore aim to give pupils a firm foundation for the further study of climate science in secondary school.  Climate change is introduced formally at Key Stage 3 once pupils have developed the appropriate understanding of weather and climate.  However, the primary science and geography programmes of study do cover other related aspects of human impact on the environment.  For example, in Key Stage 2 pupils will begin to look at how environments can change, which can include positive and negative impact of human actions, such as setting up nature reserves or littering.

As Mr McDougall has set out, teaching about climate change needs to cover a number aspects, including causes, consequences and mitigations. These are all covered in the current National Curriculum. This includes studying climates and climate zones in Key Stages 2 and 3 geography, alongside the greenhouse effect and evidence for other anthropogenic causes of climate change in Key Stages 3 and 4 science.  In addition, pupils will study the impact of increased levels of carbon dioxide and methane and how this can be mitigated in Key Stage 4 science.  In biology, they will continue to study ecosystems, including positive and negative human interactions with ecosystems and their impact on biodiversity.  Finally, the curriculum also teaches pupils about sustainable use of resources, including the efficacy of recycling and renewable energy sources.

With best wishes

Yours sincerely,



In my next post, I'll comment on what this says (and doesn't say).  NB, Calum McDougall is not the constituent's real name.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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