This post is written by Dr Paul Vare of the University of Gloucestershire. Paul was one of those invited by the DfE to be a member of the climate education working group which met on December 9th. These are his notes:
This was an online meeting to discuss Action Point One (Climate Education) of the DfE’s Draft Strategy for Sustainability and Climate Change Education. The DfE had invited a large number of us – perhaps too many for this format (there were 28 participants although about six of these were DfE staffers).
The pre-ramble by the facilitator was long, chatty and inviting – he was open to questions, which allowed us to stray over time but not by much. He was excited to be part of the Department’s ‘first’ strategy for this sort of thing; later he was advised that the DCSF * had had a pretty serviceable strategy in the past – but to be fair he was probably still at school when that was in place.
We were split into break-out groups, which worked well, allowing everyone to share ideas on (a) embedding sustainability and climate education (SCE) in teacher education and (b) development and ‘delivery’ of useful resources. They were showered with suggestions as if breaking open a piñata of pent up experience and research.
Key points that emerged – and were hopefully heard – were:
[i] – the need to focus on pedagogy as well as knowledge, this means engaging students in their environment, in critical thinking, in leading their own local projects and co-constructing their learning as a counter balance to a prescribed ‘knowledge-rich curriculum’
[ii] – the fact that the existing teacher education frameworks (CCF, ECF, NPQs) present an opportunity to infuse SCE throughout teacher’s professional development. Currently these frameworks say precisely nothing about SCE and thus constitute one of the greatest blockages to progress in this area
[iii] – this needs resources – time and money (of course no promises could be made).
Round two of the break-out groups looked at (a) leadership and (b) working together across the strategy’s action areas. Here the key messages included:
[i] – avoid talk of ‘champions’, rather focus on young people’s voice and leadership. This should be a key purpose of education, not a special interest. There was a suggestion of making this the third objective of the National Curriculum (again no promises could be made)
[ii] – make use of existing resource collections and databases
[iii] – the need to share ideas resources across education phases from early years to further and higher education; while the focus was largely on schools, individuals made these points well and the draft strategy itself calls for such linkages.
All of this was recorded and received politely if not enthusiastically by the DfE team; whether any of it will make a difference remains to be seen. Dates for subsequent gatherings have yet to be arranged.
Paul can be contacted at: email@example.com
* DCSF refers to the Department of Children, Schools and Families which was the DfE's title during the years of the Blair government up to 2010, after which it was swept away in the educational reforms of the Cameron / Clegg coalition government. A notable aspect of the work of the DCSF was its sustainable schools initiative.