New environmental education measures: our response

We were pleased to be one of a number of organisations asked to share our expertise in consultation with the Department for Education and the Natural History Museum recently, as they set out a new series of measures which will aim to place climate change at the heart of education. Our Scotland Director, Matt Robinson, was also invited to attend the education secretary’s reception for the launch of the draft Sustainability & Climate Change policy.

The new measures include a new ‘model science curriculum’ to be put in place by 2023. This is currently being tested in schools and, if successful, could be rolled out across the school estate and into more public-sector buildings.

Children and young people will also be encouraged to connect with the natural world by increasing biodiversity in the grounds of their nursery, school or college. They will be able to upload their data onto a new, virtual National Education Nature Park – which will allow them to track their progress against other schools in the country, increase their knowledge of different species and develop skills in biodiversity mapping.

In addition, young people will have the opportunity to undertake a Climate Leaders Award to celebrate and recognise their work in protecting the environment, with a national awards ceremony held every year.

In his speech at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference climate summit in Glasgow, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced:

“Empowering teachers in every school to deliver world-leading climate change education will not only raise awareness and understanding of the problem but also equip young people with the skills and knowledge to build a sustainable future.”

We echo this sentiment and welcome many of these proposals, including the priority given to increasing biodiversity in school grounds and the emphasis that a new science curriculum should place on the school estate. We also look forward to collaborating with a team of young people, educators, sustainability experts and environmentalists to work on these measures before the final publication of the strategy in April 2022.

However, it is vital that the proposed measures are accessible to all schools and all children, and that the environmental education proposed is centred on outdoor learning.

Matt Robinson, our Scotland Director, said: “The proposed measures of increasing biodiversity in school grounds and making school settings more resistant to climate change are good to see, and they mirror policies that are already in place in the other three home nations of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. It was also encouraging to see the Department for Education’s Building Bulletin 71 – which focussed on outdoor classrooms – referred to in the welcome on Saturday.

There is an exciting opportunity here to use these measures to build new policy for England, from supporting all schools to adapt their grounds for climate to change to helping educators to increase their outdoor learning. Schemes and knowledge that already exist must be called on to support along the way.

Mary Jackson, Head of Education and Communities at Learning through Landscapes, said:

“Integrating school grounds into the curriculum and improving their biodiversity is at the heart of what we’ve been doing for over 30 years, so we welcome the direction that these new measures are taking.

If you want to effectively teach and learn about nature and the environment, it’s essential that you’re outside in it. But it’s also vitally important that any new strategy is accessible to all schools; all children and young people must be able to connect with nature every day, regardless of their background or circumstance.

We look forward to consulting further on these plans and to seeing them come to fruition with real climate change action on a national scale.”

Read more about the proposed measures on GOV.UK.

 

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