Step up climate change education, heads' leader says

Amid international calls to strengthen climate change education, ASCL says topic could have a bigger place in curriculum

Climate change: There have been international calls for more climate education in schools

A heads' leader has called for the topic of climate change to be given more space in the curriculum, in order to tackle not only its environmental impact but also possible solutions.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Climate change is already covered in the national curriculum as part of the programmes of study in key stage 3 and 4 science and geography. Many schools will also discuss the issue in other forums, such as through assemblies and class projects.

“However, there is a strong argument for climate change to feature more prominently in the curriculum, not only in terms of studying its environmental impact, but also focusing on renewable energy and green technology.”

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Mr Barton said he would support a review of the curriculum so that it prepares young people for the challenges of a rapidly changing world, and ASCL would envisage the issue of climate change forming part of any such review.

“This sort of adjustment could not be done in isolation. We would need to identify exactly what learning we are talking about and balance it against the other demands on the school timetable.

Tackling climate change

“This is why we need to undertake a comprehensive review of the curriculum to ensure it is fit for the future.”

Mr Barton's comments were in response to government representatives from Italy and Mexico, speaking at a press conference at the COP25 climate summit in Madrid, who called for countries to step up their climate change and environmental education.

Lorenzo Fioramonti, Italy’s minister of education, innovation and research, said: “Young people are demanding that governments take climate change far more seriously.

"There are many areas of society where we must act, and act with increased ambition: compulsory education on these topics needs to be a key part of this national and international response to the big issues of our time."

Mr Fioramonti suggested Earth Day 2020, on 22 April, should represent one of the key moments to recognise the centrality of climate and environmental education, including through  ‘Teach-Ins’ as one way of raising awareness among the young.

Kathleen Rogers, president of the Earth Day Network, added that although environmental literacy had been at the core of Earth Day since 1970, governments have not gone far enough and that these subjects should be made compulsory and linked to civic education, to enable students to develop knowledge and skills to fully engage in the solutions to climate change.

“Young people, through movements such as Fridays for Future, have been asking governments to tell the truth about the climate and environmental emergencies that we are now facing—‘telling the truth’ needs to happen in the schools and universities, and needs to happen now,” she said.

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