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75% of Teachers Feel Unequipped to Teach Education for Sustainable Development as Labour Pledge to Make Climate Change Core Part of School Curriculum

Angela Rayner
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Labour is announcing that climate change will be a core part of the curriculum from primary school onwards. The announcement comes on the same day that the UK Climate Strike Network hosts more school strikes across the country.

A growing number of teachers want their pupils to learn more about the climate crisis and are calling for environmental training so they can prepare children for a rapidly changing world, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by Oxfam.

More than two-thirds of teachers polled said there should be more teaching in UK schools about climate change, while three-quarters did not feel they had received adequate training to educate students on the subject. Around 70% agreed radical change was needed to make the education system “fit for the times we live in”.

Noga Levy-Rapoport, from the UK Student Climate Network, said:

“It’s clear that our education system isn’t fit for purpose to equip us for the future we’re inheriting. As things stand our generation is being led down a dark tunnel toward increasingly severe climate breakdown and uncertainty. That’s why we’re calling for radical change to centre the climate crisis as an educational priority.”

Under plans set out by Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, the next Labour government will ensure all young people are educated about the ecological and social impact of climate change.

A review of the curriculum will also make certain that it focuses on the knowledge and skills that young people need in a world that will be increasingly shaped by climate change, particularly in renewable energy and green technology jobs.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation will drastically increase future demand for the knowledge and skills required for the green jobs of the future, with these skills severely underrepresented in the current curriculum.

As part of the review, an expert panel will consider how climate change and its impact are taught from primary school onwards.

One of the key demands of the climate school strikes is that the national curriculum is reformed to address the ecological crisis as an educational priority. Currently, teaching climate change is restricted to Chemistry and Geography in Key Stages 3 and 4.

Under the Conservatives, the curriculum has narrowed, with Michael Gove scrapping the last Labour government’s plans to start teaching children about the environment and climate change when they are in primary school.

Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Education Secretary, said:

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“Today, young people are taking to the streets to send a clear message to the government that climate change will be a fundamental and defining feature of their adult lives, and we must take the action needed to tackle it.

“We need to equip people with the knowledge to understand the enormous changes we face, and skills to work with the new green technologies that we must develop to deal with them.

“That must be part of a broad education and that prepares pupils for adult life. Climate change should be a core part of the school curriculum, and under a Labour government it will be.

“As well as teaching young people about the impact of climate change, their education must prepare them for the jobs of the future. As part of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution to create 400,000 skilled jobs across the country, young people will be taught the skills they need.”

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“We welcome Angela Rayner’s announcement, and what it shows about Labour’s willingness to listen to students’ concerns.  Labour is helping to move education policy away from a sterile emphasis on testing towards a focus on new questions, essential to present day society. To address these questions effectively means not only curriculum change, but also an investment in resources and in teacher development.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“It is important that pupils are taught about climate change, which is why it is in the national curriculum as part of science and geography in both primary and secondary school.

“The curriculum also includes the knowledge pupils need to help address climate change in the future. For example, in design and technology pupils are taught to consider the impact of the products they design on individuals, society and the environment. Schools have the autonomy to go into as much depth on these subjects as they see fit.

“In secondary school science, pupils will consider the evidence for human causes of climate change, and as part of GCSE geography they will study the spatial and temporal characteristics of climatic change. In primary science and geography, pupils study topics that provide the underpinning knowledge and understanding required to study climate science in secondary school.

“In the primary curriculum, they look at changes across the four seasons, weather patterns, climate zones, vegetation belts, and the water cycle.

“This government is a world-leader when it comes to tackling climate change. We are the first country to introduce long-term legally binding climate targets and cut emissions by more than 40% since 1990 while growing our economy. We’re investing over £2.5 billion to support low carbon innovation, taking action on our ambitious objectives in the 25 Year Environment Plan which aims to hand over our planet to the next generation in a better condition than when we inherited it.” 

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