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Incorporating sustainability and climate change into our education

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In April, the Department for Education (DfE) introduced the new Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy. For many, the proposal was considered a positive move. The strategy provided the Government recognition of the importance of education and training systems in supporting us reach sustainability goals.

The development of a climate change and sustainability group within the DfE and the release of a strategy that focuses on climate action and net zero goals is a significant step. The strategy incorporates a structured list of principles, insight and a whole-system approach aligned with critical policies such as the Net Zero Strategy.

The strategy also incorporates the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) vision for education and sustainable development, that all individuals will ultimately be sustainable learners. As described in the strategy, green jobs will not be a niche area. The DfE believe that sustainability and climate change will be a part of every career. The ETF has supported sustainability teaching beyond STEM subjects and announced new curriculum resources to improve education and sustainable development across multiple disciplines.

Focusing on inclusivity

The ETF is dedicated to ensuring those from disadvantaged backgrounds can access new opportunities. It’s positive to see that the new strategy highlights that transition to a sustainable future should be socially just and incorporate inclusivity. Further measures can provide opportunities for people of ages to train, retain and upskill to explore a green career. This process supports the industry development of specialised sustainability skills, which will allow the transition toward a diverse green workforce. While the strategy embraces inclusivity, it fails to address the details of how to achieve this. 

Within the plan, the DfE highlights the current work underway within the sector and its contribution toward a sustainable future. Many education providers have implemented measures to integrate sustainability and climate change within multiple courses. The DfE recognises how much has been accomplished by individuals, governance boards and leadership teams. This recognition is critical to the groups that have already launched and operating measures to tackle the challenges of sustainability and climate change. The results of these particular groups highlight effective practices that inspire others to take action.

Teaching measures are critical for success and this strategy recognises the commitment required to develop an industry standard for education teaching, ensuring all new teachers integrate sustainability into their practice. 

Through the efforts of ETF, this commitment has progressed with the introduction of ESD into the occupational requirements for Level 5 Learning and Skills Teacher and the updated Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers.

One further highlight of the new strategy is how it creates clarity for educational professionals that they have the opportunity to teach around the subject of the climate crisis with political impartiality. A statement by the DfE explains that teaching about climate change and the facts behind this does not relate to education about the political issue, and schools do not need to include misinformation or other claims to provide a balance. Through this statement, organisations can teach climate education in a manner that explores political and scientific debates.

The strategy is a positive step for the future. The plans have the support of young people, sustainability and climate professionals and industry representatives, such as the ETF. The strategy is committed to regular reviews, exploring new opportunities, scientific research and data and continuing to shape how further education and training can support the plan. 

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