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School leaders cannot ignore the growing pupil voice on climate change

Commenting as Secretary of State for Education @NadhimZahawi announces a range of measures designed to ‘put climate change at the heart of education’ in his speech at COP26 today, James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“School are fully committed to playing their part in tackling climate change. There is a huge amount of good work already taking place in schools to reduce their carbon footprint, and we know this generation of pupils are passionate about bringing about meaningful change.

“A coherent national strategy is essential if we are to see real impact. The government must be truly ambitious, not just looking to new buildings, but also at how the existing school estate can be made as environmentally friendly as possible.

“Many schools are already actively teaching pupils about the importance of conserving and protecting our planet through their existing curriculum. It’s vital that any work on a new model curriculum is developed in close consultation with the profession and builds on the excellent work already taking place.”

Graham Frost, NAHT national executive member and headteacher of Robert Ferguson Primary School in Carlisle, who proposed a motion encouraging the teaching of the climate crisis to NAHT’s annual conference in 2019, said:

“Education is almost universally considered the means by which we build for a better future, so we simply have to equip children with the knowledge they need to challenge politicians and business leaders to act urgently on climate change.

“School leaders cannot ignore the growing pupil voice on climate change, and children cannot articulately challenge the powers-that-be without being educated. I have seen young people speak truth to power. I have also witnessed their despair with elected officials who think personal changes such as using a different soap or recycling plastic is sufficient response to looming environmental catastrophe. Equipped with scientific knowledge, our pupils can see that system-wide technological, political, sociological and economic changes on at a local and global level are urgently and desperately needed.”

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