The DfE wants feedback on its draft sustainability and climate change education strategy for education and children’s services systems. These are my initial thoughts:
- support the statement that education is critical to fighting climate change, and the acknowledgement that we have a responsibility to educate and prepare young people with the knowledge, understanding (commitment) and skills to meet their biggest challenge.
- welcome the vision that the UK will be a (rather than the) world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change by 2030
- note that the 5 action areas are not distinct and need to be taken together wherever possible; eg linking what is taught with how the school estate is developed, and linking discussion of future careers to the curriculum consideration of how issues are dealt with and resolved.
- argue that climate change is not the only environmental issue that needs to be focused on in schools as the loss of and threats to biodiversity, habitat and species diversity are serious too. The language used needs to stress this range of issues.
- welcome the focus on support for teachers through training and resources, but recognise that these are not the only factors that militate against schools being able to help students learn effectively. School leaders and governors also need support to create the circumstances within which such teacher-support will result in the outcomes sought. This is entirely missing from the strategy.
- call for a review of curriculum guidance to illustrate how schools might most appropriately deal with environmental matters in a progressive manner as the key stages evolve and young people mature. For example, what is it that a student aged 12 ought to understand about climate / climate change (or biodiversity) and how does this differ from what an 8, 10, 14 and a 16 year should?
- stress that all subject areas have something to contribute to a students’ “climate education” as the curriculum analysis that NAEE has done shows.
- argue that whereas the fact of anthropogenic climate change is no longer in dispute, what might be done about it remains contested, and as such can raise controversial, politically-charged points which need consideration.
- argue that teachers will need to work together across subject disciplines much more than they do now, especially in secondary schools, if effective learning around essentially interdisciplinary issues is to be optimised.
- note that the strategy does not place much emphasis on students' perspective or their experience of schools; that is, it takes a teacher view rather than a learner one. This means that there is a lot of emphasis in the strategy on what young people need to learn (facts, for example), but less on how they are to be involved in their education.
- argue that “facts” only take you so far, whereas what young people say that they are particularly interested in is considering how climate change (and ecological decline) will likely affect them and what they can do about this.
- argue that a key strategic aim has been omitted from the strategy; this is the development of a knowledgable, concerned citizenry willing to work together to play an active part in helping society develop positive approaches to dealing with problems. This might be phrased: “Collaborative, active citizenship” or “action competence”.
- want to see more emphasis in the strategy on how schools and other community organisations can work together on these issues.
- note that the strategy is silent about the work done over the last 15 years on how all this (which I’ll summarise as “developing the sustainable school”) can helpfully be brought together into a coherent conceptual whole. The advantage of doing this is that it enables a school to plan and evaluate its own development pathway over time. This notion is entirely missing from the strategy, but NAEE has done useful work on it through its work with the NGA.