Climate change

Climate Change: Curriculum must face the inconvenient truth 

This week’s ‘final warning’ to avoid catastrophic climate change means school and trust leaders must stop kicking the can on curriculum reform, writes Mike Ion

This week’s ‘final warning’ to avoid catastrophic climate change means school and trust leaders must stop kicking the can on curriculum reform, writes Mike Ion

24 Mar 2023, 5:00

This week’s IPCC report makes clear that the climate clock is ticking. Sadly, the view of many of the young people I talk to in the schools in our MAT is that the adults are ‘can-kicking’ their way towards oblivion. They cannot understand why they are being taught about the industrial revolution, soil erosion or the impact of the silicon chip but not about climate change. And they have a point.  

The numerous education ministers of recent years have promised that Britain would lead the way in climate and sustainability education by 2030. Great, but how? The main approach appears to be focused on a mapping exercise of what might be taught in science, geography and citizenship programmes within the national curriculum and through existing GCSEs such as design and technology, food preparation and nutrition, and economics. Our students think this is way too slow, way too cumbersome and hugely lacking in ambition. I agree. 

Our current approach to educating young people about the climate emergency is far too atomised and piecemeal, and it’s time for more radical action. Our MAT is therefore reviewing its teaching about the need for bold action to combat climate change, about the science that underpins the current climate emergency and how local, national and international collaboration are a strength and a virtue. 

The long-term consequences of our actions today will have a profound impact on the future of our planet. So, in collaboration with some key climate change campaign groups we will be piloting a new ‘climate emergency curriculum’ in 2023/24 with Years 5 and 6 in several of our primary schools.  

There are several reasons why we believe we should teach climate change studies as a discrete subject in our schools. First, it is crucial for children to understand the science behind climate change. They need to learn about its various causes including human activities that emit greenhouse gases like burning fossil fuels and deforestation.  

Students think the DfE approach lacks ambition. I agree

Children must also learn about the impact of climate change on the environment, including rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions, and loss of biodiversity. By understanding the science behind climate change, children will be better equipped to understand the importance of taking action to address it. 

Second, it will help children develop critical thinking skills. As they learn about the complex and interconnected issues related to climate change, they will need to analyse and evaluate different sources of information, including scientific research, media reports and political perspectives. This will help them to become better-informed citizens and to engage in informed discussions and decision-making about climate change as they grow older. 

Third, it will help children develop a sense of personal responsibility for the environment. Children will learn about the importance of reducing their carbon footprint, conserving energy and resources, and making sustainable choices in their daily lives. They will also learn about the impact of individual actions on the wider community and the environment, and how they can work together to make a positive change. 

Our children are excellent advocates for change, and by learning about climate change, they can become ambassadors for sustainability in their families, their local communities, and beyond. 

We are not alone to take such action. From July, the US state of Connecticut will become one of the first to mandate climate change studies across its public schools as part of its science curriculum. The vast majority of its public schools already have some form of climate change studies on the curriculum, but mandating it will effectively protect it from budget cuts and climate-denying political views.  

One of the really attractive aspects of the Connecticut approach is its focus on local, hands-on investigations and data connections that reflect local needs and action, helping students connect the science to their lives. 

Our trust exists to help students make the world a better place. There is no greater help we can provide than working with them to develop the knowledge and skills to save our planet, and we won’t be waiting on the government to catch up with Connecticut to do so. 

Latest education roles from

Procurement Officer

Procurement Officer

RNN Group

Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment

Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment

Barnet and Southgate College

Professional Practice (TLA) Lead

Professional Practice (TLA) Lead

RNN Group

Health & Care Coordinator

Health & Care Coordinator

MidKent College

HR Assistant

HR Assistant

MidKent College

Principal, Cedar Mount Academy Bright Futures Educational Trust

Principal, Cedar Mount Academy Bright Futures Educational Trust

Satis Education

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

Navigating NPQ Funding Cuts: Discover Leader Apprenticeships with NPQs

Recent cuts to NPQ funding, as reported by Schools Week, mean 14,000 schools previously eligible for scholarships now face...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How do you tackle the MIS dilemma?

With good planning, attention to detail, and clear communication, switching MIS can be a smooth and straightforward process, but...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

SWAdvertorial

More from this theme

Climate change

1,000 volunteers needed for school climate ambassador scheme

Expanded scheme, first launched two years ago, to help 2,500 education settings with climate action plans

Samantha Booth
Climate change

Calls for review of ‘undervalued’ climate education

A third of secondary teachers did not believe they spent enough time teaching about climate change

Samantha Booth
Climate change

The DfE’s 29 new school climate change policies

The Department for Education has published its draft climate strategy today to become the “world-leading education sector in sustainability...

John Dickens
Climate change

15k schools will be at ‘significant flood risk’ by 2050, with half already in danger

Schools will be 'encouraged' to have emergency flood plans in place by 2025

James Carr

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 Comments

  1. I can only celebrate this article. Climate change anxiety across the entire pupil population is growing. Bold action in needed indeed.

    Check out http://www.our-classroom-climate.com the UK’s first teacher lead climate change and environmental education programme.

    This programme inspires pupils and helps them understand the science of climate change, helps them join up the dots on rising sea level and extreme weather events, helps them understand human impact since the industrial revolution and identify remedial action that can start today!

    Furthermore it also delivers clean air action, using space station science to clean the air in the classroom (removing CO2, Particulate Matter, Volatile Organic Compounds etc.) as well as capturing carbon and a whole range of experiments. Basically it’s like putting a 10 year old tree in every classroom tomorrow (and you don’t have to pick up any leaves either).

    There’s a free teacher / school demo of module 1 of their website too. Give it a try!