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Climate and Sustainability in the Curriculum – New Report

As the new UK government begins its stated mission to ‘rebuild Britain’, a group of education and climate experts is calling for sustainability and climate education to be at the heart of its priorities.

In its election manifesto, the Labour party committed to making Britain a clean energy superpower and to a new, modern educational curriculum.

Launched at the Royal Meteorological Society Annual Weather and Climate Conference today (Monday 8 July) in Reading, the National Climate Education Action Plan Curriculum Mapping report shows how these two missions could be linked. The report highlights the many opportunities to bring quality climate and sustainability education into the curriculum.

Professor Andrew Charlton-Perez, of the University of Reading will launch the report today together with Professor Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society.

Professor Charlton-Perez said: “Including climate and sustainability within the curriculum review will be vital to ensuring that the new government delivers long-lasting reform that can prepare young people for the good green jobs of the future.”

Rich curriculum

The report highlights different options to improve climate education from the first week of the new government, and the pros and cons of each of these approaches.

There are opportunities for an expansion of current climate education by adjusting teaching within the current curriculum, or by making small but meaningful changes to current curriculum specifications.

It includes detailed mapping showing where and how climate can fit into the curriculum. These changes could be implemented quickly while a more comprehensive review takes place. The report also highlights how greater inclusion of climate education fits with the desire of the new government to make the curriculum rich, broad and inclusive.

In the foreword to the report, Lisa Hoerning, a recent school leaver, makes clear the desire amongst young people for the forthcoming curriculum review to incorporate climate and sustainability education as a theme that crosses subjects and educational levels.

She said: “The current curriculum studied by young people across England doesn’t educate us on the climate and ecological emergency, and, depending on your subject preferences, you can nearly skip the relevant content entirely.” 

She also expressed her hope that that in the near future climate education, as demonstrated in the report, would be integrated across all subjects.

Professor Sylvia Knight, Head of Education at RMetS, said, “Bringing together this report revealed the depth and diversity of work by organisations across the country, looking at ways to improve the climate literacy and green skills of our school leavers. Whilst recognising that curriculum reform could lead to the highest quality climate education, many opportunities already exist within the current curriculum or something very like it for teachers to deliver engaging, relevant, subject- and level-appropriate climate and sustainability teaching. The key to realising these opportunities will be teacher support, incentive and assessment.”

The report was produced by a group of authors from fourteen educational organisations led by Professor Sylvia Knight, of the Royal Meteorological Society, and science education expert Sean McQuaid of the TIDE community and is endorsed by a broad coalition of 60 organisations from schools, colleges, universities, climate charities and educational publishers.

The full National Climate Education Action Plan Curriculum Mapping report is published online today.

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Teaching resources

Secondary Geography
Lower secondary fieldwork resource exploring heatwaves in the school buildings and school grounds, potentially leading to adaptation opportunties
Secondary Maths
Classroom resources which use climate change as a context for key maths skills, produced in collaboration with Dr Frost Learning
Primary, Secondary Geography, Secondary Maths, Secondary Science
For curriculum developers and other communicators to explore the diverse range of concepts associated with climate change and the links between them.