Image of Most educators unaware of government climate education plans, survey finds

Most educators unaware of government climate education plans, survey finds

A recent survey* of 867 staff in education settings has revealed that the vast majority – some 84% - were not aware of the DfE’s strategy on sustainability and climate change for education and children’s services. It is not surprising, then, that 78% of respondents in the same survey did not feel ready to meet the DfE’s expectations for the education sector in addressing what it terms as “the formidable challenge of climate change”.

The DfE launched the flagship policy paper in April 2022, communicating the government’s vision for the UK to be “the world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change by 2030”, and the aims and actions through which the vision will be realised.

If the strategy is not on the school radar, the reasons for this may not be entirely clear, though there was certainly a strong feeling among respondents, and understandably so, that they already have more than enough to do - and with increasingly scant resources as the cost of living escalates. Among some respondents, there can also be detected a residual reluctance to rate the climate crisis as a top education priority.

Yet, the issue is not going away. The UN’s latest climate report, published in April 2022, brings the warning that it is “now or never to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees” – a stark and urgent reminder that individually and collectively we all need to change our ways.

Obviously, education is crucial. It is a recurring theme of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and also the subject of Goal 4 in its own right. As UNESCO states in its Education for sustainable development goals: learning objectives, education “is not only an integral part of sustainable development, but also a key enabler for it.

The DfE’s sustainability and climate change strategy sets out 4 strategic aims for education and children’s services in England: excellence in education and skills for a changing world; net zero; resilience to climate change; and a better environment for future generations.

The strategy also identifies a slew of short, medium and long-term actions, including that, by 2025, all education settings will have nominated a sustainability lead and put in place a climate action plan, which will include “curricular and extra-curricular activity, procurement, adaptation and decarbonisation plans”.

It is due to set both educators and their charges on a joint learning journey, which exposes scientific truth whilst bringing children and young people on board as agents of change in their own communities. It will also bring our young people opportunities to develop ‘soft skills’, such as teamworking, problem solving and public speaking, to engage with nature, and to prepare for future guardianship of the planet. It is likely that the strategy will further permeate collective consciousness as the DfE adds finer detail to its broad-brush vision.

To support delivery of climate education, The National College offers market-leading, online CPD, helping schools to respond to new government initiatives, integrate climate education across the curriculum, and develop the role of the climate education lead. We also offer free primary and secondary webinars supporting a whole-school approach to sustainability, developed in collaboration with WWF-UK, the world’s leading independent conservation organisation.

* Survey of 867 staff in education settings in the UK undertaken by YouGov on 6 September 2022 on behalf of The National College