Climate Education and Teach The Future



GRACE CORN


For over a year, students across the country have been striking from school to protest the UK’s lack of action on the climate crisis. The strikes have shown that if young people are not getting the education they need in the classroom, they will take to the streets to call for change. Currently, our schools, colleges and universities are not meaningfully engaging students in understanding the crisis or preparing them for their future. This is not the fault of individual educators or schools – it is the fault of the entire education system.


Teach The Future England is a youth-led campaign to urgently repurpose the entire education system around the climate emergency and ecological crisis. The campaign was started at the end of 2019 and is run collaboratively by two organisations; the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) and Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK).


Current students across the UK identified that the majority of teaching and learning throughout the entirety of our education system is misaligned from the systemic changes urgently required to make our society sustainable. Our education system routinely fails to educate, prepare and equip young people for the climate emergency and ecological crisis. Teach The Future England aims to break sustainability out of subject silos such as the natural sciences and geography, and to embed it as a fundamental principle across all disciplines. If you look for the leaders of any industry or sector, you will find that they are university educated people, and predominantly they are making poor decisions for our communities and our planet. If we are to have any hope of tackling the climate and ecological emergency, we desperately need our schools, colleges and universities to be teaching the leaders of tomorrow today, equipping them to think sustainably no matter their discipline or career path.


The climate crisis is also a racist crisis. Climate impacts are disproportionately felt by black and brown communities due to structures retained from colonialism. It’s impossible to write a history of the climate crisis without understanding how empires built fossil fuel companies and stole natural resources from the Global South. The calls to decolonise our education system across the country are therefore crucial as well. Climate education and decolonisation go hand in hand and are both urgently required in our national curriculum.


According to the NUS’s attitudes towards sustainability survey (Nov 2017) 57% of students want to learn more about sustainable development, and the Green Schools Project/NUS pupil survey (Dec 2018) found that just 4% of pupils surveyed feel that they know a lot about climate change. The UKSCN/Oxfam teachers survey (May 2019) found that 75% of teachers feel they haven’t received adequate training to educate students about climate change, and that 69% of teachers think there should be more teaching about climate change in UK schools. A recent YouGov poll (January 2020) also found that 71% said learning about climate change should be part of the school curriculum. Teachers already feel ill equipped to teach their students about the climate crisis, but we need much more than that. We need young people to be educated not just about, but for sustainable development.


In response to this, the Teach the Future England campaign asks for:

  1. A government commissioned review into how the whole of the English formal education system is preparing students for the climate emergency and ecological crisis.

  2. Inclusion of the climate emergency and ecological crisis in teacher training and a new professional teaching qualification.

  3. An English Climate Emergency Education Act.


The English Climate Emergency Education Bill is the first of its kind to be written by current students. Should the bill become legislation, not only would it obligate all English education providers to teach about the climate emergency and ecological crisis, it would also provide new funding for the upskilling of existing teachers and lecturers, development of teaching resources and funding for youth-led climate and environmental social action in every school, college and university.

The Bill would additionally require all new state-funded educational buildings to be net-zero carbon from 2022, and that all existing state-funded educational buildings be retrofitted to net-zero by 2030 as a national infrastructure priority. Teach The Future England is currently calling for this investment to be included in the government’s COVID-19 recovery fiscal stimulus package.


Teach The Future Scotland launched this month and is run by two organisations, Scottish Youth Climate Strike and National Union of Students Scotland. If you would like to get involved with the campaign please email scotland@teachthefuture.uk.


What can you do right now to support the campaign?

  • Follow Teach The Future on Twitter: @_teachthefuture

  • Go to www.teachthefuture.uk/take-action to write to your MP/MSP, and if you’re a current student, sign our open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for a green recovery for education.

  • Email hello@teachthefuture.uk if your organisation would like to become one of the 100+ Teach The Future supporting organisations.

Will you join us in calling on government to #TeachTheFuture?

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