DfE promises final Climate Change Strategy by April 2022

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

A model science curriculum, a Climate Leaders Award for young people, increasing biodiversity in school grounds, and supporting schools to reduce carbon emissions.

These are just a few of the goals set out in the Department for Education’s draft strategy for sustainability and climate change which was unveiled last week at COP 26 (DfE, 2021).

The strategy proposes to introduce “world-leading climate change education” via the introduction of a model science curriculum at primary level by 2023 which it says will “teach children about nature and their impact on the world around them”.

It also pledges new CPD for science teachers focused on climate change and sustainability (by 2022) and free access to “high-quality curriculum resources” (by 2023) for teachers of all phases and subjects.

The DfE says that the draft strategy is to be “built on over the next six months in collaboration with young people, educators, sustainability experts and environmentalists”. Final publication is scheduled for April 2022.

Further reading

Responding to COP26: A robust cross-curricular approach to climate education. How do teachers make sense of the decisions emerging from COP26? Alan Kinder says clear curriculum thinking will be required and offers ideas for ensuring a robust approach to climate change education: Click here to read.

The SecEd Podcast: For more on how we can reduce carbon emissions and support eco-work in schools, listen to our sister magazine's podcast episode from August 2021, which include a range of ideas, tips and advice from schools involved in the Let’s Go Zero campaign: Click here to listen

Elsewhere, the strategy introduces plans for a National Education Nature Park and Climate Leaders Awards (both by 2023).

The park initiative will encourage pupils to get involved in the natural world by increasing biodiversity in the grounds of their school via small steps such as installing bird-feeders.

The DfE states: “They will be able to upload their data onto a new, virtual National Education Nature Park – which will allow them to track their progress against other schools in the country, increase their knowledge of different species and develop skills in biodiversity mapping.”

It adds: “Combined, the grounds of schools, colleges, nurseries and universities in England take up an area over twice the size of Birmingham, so improving their biodiversity could have a significant impact on the environment.”

The Climate Leaders Award will recognise students’ work to improve their environment with “a prestigious national awards ceremony held every year”. The DfE says students could progress through different levels of the award in a similar way to the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Elsewhere, the strategy focuses on the school estate and pledges that all new school buildings delivered by the DfE – but not including those already contracted – will be net zero in operation by 2023.

In terms of retrofitting existing school buildings, the strategy sets a 2025 target for evaluating “the best value for money approaches for retrofitting education buildings and developing standards for retrofit and repair to empower the education estate to make change”.

The DfE is also by 2023 to test new so-called “energy pods” in schools. These are a low to zero carbon technological solution that offers heating and hot water to existing school settings via solar panels and technology to maximise their output. These could replace coal and oil heating systems.

School transport will be a focus too, with plans to “increase active and safe travel to school such as Bikeability, Walk to School Outreach and School Streets”.

And in terms of the school supply chain, the strategy proposes a review of school food standards by 2025 “to consider the impact of food emissions on the environment and whether more flexibility can be offered for schools to support local sustainability and provide more plant-based and meat-free options”. There will also be work and resources to support schools to reduce and manage food waste.

Actions, outcomes and aims: The Sustainability and Climate Change draft strategy includes this diagram setting out the DfE’s overall education ambitions for climate education and reducing carbon emissions

Response to the Sustainability & Climate Change draft strategy

National Association of Head Teachers: “Many schools are already actively teaching pupils about the importance of conserving and protecting our planet through their existing curriculum. It’s vital that any work on a new model curriculum is developed in close consultation with the profession and builds on the excellent work already taking place.”

National Education Union: “We welcome the notion of expanding the amount of climate education in the STEM curriculum but believe that this needs to be extended into wider areas of the curriculum such as religious education, economics, history, geography, and the arts - and we will want to engage further with DfE on this. It requires teacher training and curriculum space. Planning for all new school buildings to have zero emissions is welcome but we also need to look at retrofitting the current school estate.”

Association of School and College Leaders: “Schools and colleges already work very hard on tackling climate change and looking after the environment through practical measures, activities and education which reflect the depth of feeling among their pupils on this crucial topic. It is very clear that children and young people rightly want to see far more concerted action from policy-makers to address the climate emergency. They are fed up with platitudes and will be hoping that COP26 delivers real progress.”

  • DfE: Sustainability & Climate Change: A draft strategy for the education & children’s services systems, November 2021: https://bit.ly/307SITM

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