Climate education strategy will help pupils create solutions
21 April 2022
Dr Jo Anna Reed Johnson, lecturer in the Institute of Education at the University of Reading, said:
"The Climate Ambassadors Scheme will allow teachers’ to develop their understanding of climate education data and how it can be integrated into teaching. It will allow teachers’ to develop their confidence in teaching this, and explore interdisciplinary ways for doing that.
"The benefits of young people learning about the natural world and its relevance to all subjects through the New Natural History GCSE (not available until 2025) is clearly important. The Climate Ambassador Scheme could be a conduit in facilitating this process.
"The effectiveness of these proposals will be dependent upon teachers having the skills and knowledge to engage in these ways, which thus has an impact on Initial Teacher Education content and Continuous Professional Development, and ultimately funding.
"Here at the University of Reading we are also pioneering an ITT Framework on Climate and Sustainability Education that will embed Climate Education and Sustainability throughout all of our teacher training programmes, as part of a National Action Plan on climate education we are delivering alongside the UK Government and partners.
"What is imperative is that the National Strategy on Sustainability and Climate Education facilitates and encourages the development of interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability and climate education. But the signs are not promising, and it looks like it will focus on ‘business as usual’ with this being taught in the traditional ways through the Sciences and Geography.
"Through interdisciplinary approaches, young people learn to problem solve, ask questions, develop competences, values and attitudes. This is what is needed."
Dr Nasreen Majid, Associate Professor of Education in the Institute of Education at the University of Reading, said:
"The Climate Ambassador Scheme is a welcome addition to the range of initiatives being developed as part of the Department for Education strategy on climate and sustainability education. It will be a key resource for educators to use in supporting the range of work being delivered in schools on climate and sustainability education.
"The scheme is particularly timely as a Teach the Future survey indicated that 70% of teachers say they have not received enough training to teach climate change. The scheme will therefore support schools getting experts in to start climate and sustainability conversations. Furthermore, this scheme brings together experts at scale and thus provide a more sustainable and equitable way of supporting schools across the nation.
"The Natural History GCSE is welcome addition to the work already being done in schools to support pupil understanding of climate and sustainability education. The tipping point with this will be to see how intersectionality will be developed within the syllabus to empower pupils to think in a systems approach. So, teaching about the anthropogenic impacts on the planet as well as how these have a knock-on effect on all aspects of life on earth. The GCSE will also support future job prospects for pupils in shaping their insight into how to create solutions to the emerging environment emergency we are facing.
"Finally, the latest IPCC report (AR6  Mitigation of Climate Change) states that 'Changing from a commercialised, individualised, entrepreneurial training model to an education cognizant of planetary health and human well-being can accelerate climate change awareness and action'. Therefore, introducing further curricular content, specifically targeting the climate emergency and sustainability education is a step in the right direction.
"However, a word of caution: the new GCSE will require training and further resourcing for schools to support in the quality delivery of the syllabus. Therefore, with the new GCSE must come treasury money for schools to deliver the content well.
"Our position as Teacher Educators is that Climate and Sustainability Education is a skill set that all teachers should have the opportunity to develop. Therefore, we are embedding climate and sustainability education across all our Initial Teacher Training programmes through our pioneering National ITT Climate and Sustainability Education Framework. This was part of our pledge at the Climate Education Summit that the University of Reading hosted in September 2021."
Professor Helen Bilton, Professor of Outdoor Learning in the Institute of Education at the University of Reading, said:
"It’s great that the Department for Education is promoting the Climate Ambassadors Scheme and the virtual National Nature Parks.
"In terms of the Parks this will hopefully stop any more selling off of school grounds, and gives a very clear focus of how children and schools can help with sustainability. It is community based and therefore gives meaning to that community.
"In terms of the Climate Ambassadors it gives recognition to those people in schools, adults and children, who are wanting to make a difference. Giving them real status. It means schools can work on projects over a period of time with the different levels of award and build on their projects to develop them.
"For both it means it can be local specific and all can achieve, whether you are a school with no natural features or a school with fields and woods. It is a scheme that isn’t just for those schools who have a natural environment already.
"We can't say climate change is simply a science or geography problem and teach it only in science or geography. It has to be seen as something that has to be taught across all phases and subjects. With this then comes another issue, that is, how Ofsted will deal with and inspect it. If they don’t then it won’t give the impetuous for schools/colleges to want to do something."