From education to employment

Going Green: What Support is Available for Educators Navigating Sustainability?

Charlotte Bonner and Maddie Booth

Charlotte Bonner and Maddie Booth discuss the growing availability of continuous professional development opportunities for educators seeking to embed sustainability into their professional practice.

The impact of climate change is increasingly visible all around us. In this context, sustainability continues to grow as a priority for the education sector. The Department for Education’s (DfE) Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy highlights the role of the education system in contributing to sustainability goals and recognises the vital skills contribution of the further education (FE) and training sector. So, how do we ensure educators feel equipped to play their part in the sustainability agenda?

Evolving expectations

Recent revisions of both initial teacher education frameworks and the professional standards reflect the power of educators to influence sustainability outcomes. Education for sustainable development (ESD) is now explicit within the professional standards for FE educators in England, Scottish professional standards in FE, the minimum core and relevant occupational standards. There is growing appetite from educators to infuse sustainable education into their teaching practices.

As expectations of educators change over time, we need to invest in continuous professional development (CPD) – to help us navigate the ever-changing educational landscape, technological advancements and the evolution of teaching methodologies. We all need space to reflect on our work, refresh our skills, learn about new innovation and practice new behaviours.

Embedding sustainability across the curriculum

With sustainability, this isn’t just a case of educators ‘knowing about sustainable development’ and teaching their learners about sustainability as well as their core subject. Instead, it’s about understanding how their core subject contributes to sustainability challenges and solutions, and in turn equipping learners for their futures and developing skills that employers need to respond to sustainability challenges. This is what good ESD does – and it’s transformational.

Identifying the obstacles

But there are challenges to embedding ESD. Sustainable development itself is complex, systemic and multidisciplinary – bridging various fields of knowledge to gain an overarching understanding can be demanding. The science, policy, technology and approaches that will contribute to us solving sustainability challenges are all rapidly evolving. Keeping up to date on the latest developments in these fields whilst juggling multiple priorities can be difficult. Finding high-quality resources can also be a challenge. The level of organisational support for sustainable education varies across educational institutions. And, of course, educators are time-poor.

Support for effective CPD

An output of the National Climate Education Action Plan is a soon-to-be published CPD map to help people in different roles from across the whole education system identify routes to support their learning and development that align with their needs and capacity. Further opportunities are being planned through DfE-funded sector engagement and support projects, for which delivery partners are being procured – watch this space!

Both the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and EAUC work to create a more enabling environment for FE and training sector organisations to take sustainability action. Developing high-quality and impactful CPD is part of this. The two organisations are currently working in partnership to launch a second series of the ‘Embedding ESD’ course, which equips teachers, trainers and tutors with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to embed sustainability into their professional practice – across six, 90-minute sessions. It directly aligns with the aforementioned professional standards and builds on the sell-out course delivered in 2022, which 100% of attendees said improved their knowledge of ESD and would have a positive impact on their professional practice.

Embracing CPD in all its forms

CPD comes in many guises: training courses, reflective practice, mentoring, action learning sets, reading and podcasts. Finding what’s right for you will depend on multiple factors. But everyone has a role to play in the sustainability agenda, so whether it’s reading an article on your next train ride, listening to a podcast whilst walking the dog, or booking onto a training course, now’s the time to invest in your ESD practice.  

Charlotte Bonner and Maddie Booth
By Charlotte Bonner, CEO at EAUC, and Maddie Booth, National Head of Education for Sustainable Development at the Education and Training Foundation.

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