Giant step for green learning

4th January 2013 at 00:00
One Planet group sets out its stall on sustainability

Every Scottish teacher and pupil will have to adopt a "greener" approach and show a commitment to social justice, if an ambitious new report commissioned by the Scottish government is adopted.

Learning for Sustainability, the report of the One Planet Schools Working Group, originated in a Scottish National Party commitment in its 2010 election manifesto to develop the concept of "one planet schools".

The report calls for all schools to embrace "one planet living" as part of a step change to making Scotland one of the first sustainable, low-carbon industrialised nations on Earth.

The group, which was chaired by Professor Peter Higgins - a specialist in outdoor and environmental education at the University of Edinburgh's Moray House School of Education - starts from the premise that "humanity is currently using 50 per cent more resources than the planet can sustain".

It defines "one planet living" as "ensuring that we only use resources at a rate that can be replenished and in a manner that is equitable within, and between, nations and generations".

To achieve this, the authors of the report want to see the creation of "a Scotland where learners are educated through their landscape and understand their environment, culture and heritage; where they develop a sense of place and belonging to their local, national and global community, and have a deep connection to the natural world".

All the new National qualifications should be developed to reflect this agenda, they recommend, and Education Scotland should develop a national strategy and evaluate the schools' delivery. The Scottish Futures Trust should also make compliance a condition of funding for new school buildings, they add.

The report rolls up three familiar elements - sustainable development education, global citizenship and outdoor learning - into a single, new title: learning for sustainability. And it makes clear that the concept goes beyond "green issues" to include social and economic issues, too.

The report's focus has been presaged by the General Teaching Council for Scotland's consultation on revised professional standards, which proposes that learning for sustainability be embedded in teacher training.

"Learning for sustainability is a whole-school commitment that helps the school and its wider community develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and practices needed to take decisions that are compatible with a sustainable future in a just and equitable world," states the GTCS.

Similar language, couched in terms of social justice, is found in the consultations on revised standards for career-long development and leadership.

Professor Higgins says: "The changes resulting from the Donaldson review of teacher education, Teaching Scotland's Future, contribute to a fertile professional context for our recommendations."

The report does "not ask anything of educators that is not already implied by Curriculum for Excellence, the revised GTCS professional standards and Teaching Scotland's Future", say its authors.

Alasdair Allan, the minister for learning, science and Scotland's languages, welcomed steps to encourage and support schools in their approach to sustainability and good citizenship, including through outdoor learning.

"We will take time to consider the report, to engage with partners on its recommendations and respond in full in March 2013," he added.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS union, said that learning for sustainability sat well within the framework of CfE generally, but warned: "It is essential that where priorities are being claimed for, resources need to be identified, especially teacher time."

He added: "There's a fairly constant - and unhelpful - reference to the new GTCS standards, which seems to imply that responsibility for sustainability education lies primarily with teachers. That would not be an acceptable basis upon which to proceed. Policy initiatives, no matter how valid they are, need to be resourced and planned."

Key proposals

  • In line with the new GTCS professional standards, every practitioner, school and education leader should demonstrate learning for sustainability in their practice;
  • All learners should have an entitlement to learning for sustainability;
  • Every school should have a whole-school approach to learning for sustainability that is robust, demonstrable, evaluated and supported by leadership at all levels;
  • School buildings, grounds and policies should support learning for sustainability;
  • A strategic national approach to supporting learning for sustainability should be established.
    • Photo credit: Getty

      Original headline: `One planet living' could take root in Scotland

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