Climate change strategy falls victim to Tories' anti-centralising drive

17th September 2010 at 01:00
Decision puts Coalition's green credentials in doubt, say critics

Michael Gove has quietly axed a programme designed to teach pupils about the importance of fighting climate change.

Environmental campaign groups have blasted the decision by the Education Secretary to drop the sustainable schools strategy, describing the move as "completely at odds" with the Coalition's aims to become the "greenest government ever".

The initiative was introduced by the previous Labour administration to educate all children on the importance of reducing their carbon footprint.

The strategy called for sustainability to be taught across the curriculum, which would in turn enable children to teach their parents about the importance of energy efficiency and minimising waste.

But the scheme has now been secretly dropped. The reason, it is understood, is Conservative ministers' ideological opposition to the "centralisation of the curriculum".

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) played an integral part in setting up the strategy and fears the impact of the decision to drop it.

Liz Jackson, head of education at WWF, said: "Schools can be key to driving sustainability. Hearing that it has been dropped they may feel there is no mandate to teach it now, which we feel there is.

"We have serious concerns that sustainability will just crop up a little bit in science class or geography."

Martyn Williams, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "It is always good if people do it (teach about climate change) in their own way, but we can't tackle climate change if only half the country decides to do it.

"There should be different ways in different areas, but to just say it's up to you to get involved isn't good enough. It doesn't have to be taught at 11.30 on a Tuesday morning with a particular slide show."

But the Conservative Environment Network, a right-of-centre group made up of Conservative Party members, said they backed the decision.

A spokesperson said: "This Government is right to believe that parents, teachers and voluntary organisations are best placed to inspire and inform the next generation rather than relying on endless centrally controlled programmes and targets as the previous Government did."

Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP and co-chair of the party's energy and climate change committee, said he too was "concerned".

"I agree we don't want to have any micro-management of the curriculum from the centre, but I would have thought the Department would have supported something that gives schools better resources and better materials to better inform pupils about climate change and the environment," Mr George said.

The Department for Education was unavailable for comment.

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