DfE has translated its sustainability and Climate Change strategy into a policy paper. Here are a few comments so far on the strategy:
Matt Larsen-Daw, Head of Education at WWF, said: “This strategy sends an important message that not only is there a place for sustainability and climate to be explored in schools, but that it should be a thread running through all parts of school life. Throughout their time at school young people learn as much from being part of a school community as they do from the content of lessons. Schools can demonstrate what is possible for wider society in the way they bring sustainable principles to life in their culture, campus, curriculum and careers guidance.
The strategy doesn’t yet commit the funding required to retrofit the school estate and leverage the massive societal benefits in doing so, and is light on detail about how it will deliver on its commitment to ‘level up’ by ensuring that all students and schools can benefit from the strategy regardless of circumstances. However there are some very encouraging details.
The Climate Leaders Award provides a welcome opportunity to give a tangible value to the skills and experiences enabled for students by the strategy, and may contribute to a culture shift that moves sustainability and climate action from the niche concern of ‘eco activist’ young people to a set of skills that are seen as relevant and important to all young people considering their future career pathway. It’s heartening to see a direct reference to sustainability being relevant to all careers – not just green sector jobs.
I’m pleased to see the links made in the strategy between nature connection, systems thinking and sustainability skills, and the recognition that embedding sustainability in the building management, operations and supply chains of schools can provide opportunities for student involvement and practical skill-building.
Overall, it’s encouraging that the strategy takes a whole-school approach to embedding sustainability in the culture and environment of a school, rather than treating it purely as a curriculum topic that could be taxing and slow to roll out and keep up-to-date, and with no immediate real-world application for students and the wider school community. Also welcome is the recognition that schools can only engage with these new areas of focus if training, support and structure are provided. Ensuring every school has a climate action plan and a sustainability lead will go a long way to building a culture of sustainable thinking that links school management with staff and students, provided schools can be supported to prioritise sufficient staff time.
It is essential that these vital opportunities to connect with nature and acquire sustainable skills for employment are available to all students regardless of their circumstances. This will be the test of this strategy as it rolls out over the coming years.
NAHT- National Association of Head Teachers
Julie McCulloch, Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are pleased to see the Education Secretary deliver on one of the first pledges he made when he took office by putting climate change and sustainability at the top of his educational agenda. We feel sure that the new natural history GCSE will prove popular when it becomes an option for students in 2025 and provide an educational focal point for the significant interest in the environment that many young people already have. This new GCSE, alongside the launch of the government’s Climate Change and Sustainability Strategy, will hopefully become the building blocks towards a suite of environmentally-based courses and qualifications available to young people in the future at both GCSE and A-level.”
ASCL- Association of School and College Leaders
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The development of a GCSE in Natural History is a very welcome step to enable and encourage pupils at KS4 to learn more about the natural world. But it is vital that education about the environment, climate and sustainability is embedded throughout the curriculum at all key stages – all children and young people should be supported to develop their knowledge and understanding of the world we live in, including environmental issues which they feel passionately about.”