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The issue

Climate change is the defining crisis of our generation, and it will be the lived reality for generations to come. Yet, many people still do not understand the issue or feel able to respond to it adequately, including the very young people who will be most affected.

Through their Mock COP Declaration, young people across the globe demand that all school-age children be provided with comprehensive and up-to-date teaching regarding the climate emergency and ecological crisis.

The Climate Assembly UK has said climate education for all should form the cornerstone of any action plan. Nine out of 10 teachers agree climate change education should be compulsory in schools, yet seven out of 10 feel ill-equipped to teach it.

It is clear that young people, teachers, and experts from across a breadth of subjects are calling for change.

Our response

The University of Reading is one of the world's leading centres for the study of climate, as well as having a long history in teacher training: passing our knowledge to those who need it most is the cornerstone of our mission.

Working with the Office for Climate Education, Royal Meteorological Society, Met Office, EAUC and Ashden, we held an online Climate Education Summit on 15 September 2021. It successfully brought together young people, scientists, teachers and educationalists, policymakers and campaigners to discuss a new, nationwide action plan for better climate education in schools and colleges. Our focus is on improving climate education for children aged eight to 18.

The Climate Education Summit

The Summit included keynote plenary sessions open to all – from teachers and their students to the general public  and closed roundtable discussions, with the aim of identifying and outlining how a step change in climate and sustainability education can be made so that young people have the skills and knowledge needed for the twenty-first century.

The scope included both policy-related matters and in-school activities, not necessarily requiring curriculum change.

After the Summit

Our intention is to ensure that the message about climate education that emerges from the Summit reaches COP26.

In addition, we will work with our partners to put the action plan into practice to deliver effective change and, using what we learn from the Summit together with our knowledge and expertise, we will work to support learning and facilitate networks with key stakeholders in education and climate. Our aim is to place a spotlight on climate education for young people and to create lasting, positive change in this area. 

Getting everyone involved

We called upon everyone to make their voices heard, asking them to speak up and tell us what they want and need from climate education.

The questions we posed included: What do you want to ask the speakers and invited guests about climate education? What do young people need to know to help us look after our climate? How could our education system better prepare young people for the challenges of a changing climate?

The Summit and the climate education action plan was informed by diverse voices. The responses and questions we received helped shape the discussions held during the Summit, and continue to provide a focus and foundation for the work that now follows.