Rayner: Labour will put climate change 'at the core' of the curriculum

A future Labour government will make teaching about climate change a “core part of the curriculum” for all pupils, the shadow education secretary has said.

Angela Rayner announced her party will review the curriculum to ensure “all young people”, including primary school pupils, are “educated about the ecological and social impact of climate change”.

The national curriculum requires only secondary schools to specifically teach the issue. Academies can choose whether to teach it because they don’t have to follow the national curriculum.

The Department for Education, in response to Labour’s proposals, said climate change was part of the national curriculum for primary schools, but it is not mentioned in the programmes of study for either geography or science.

Primary schools must only teach about issues such as changes across the four seasons, weather patterns, climate zones, vegetation belts and the water cycle.

However details of Labour’s plans are thin. The party has not said whether it would make climate change teaching a statutory part of the national curriculum or a suggested part of the programmes of study.

According to the party, the review would “make certain that the curriculum focuses on the knowledge and skills that young people need in a world that will be increasingly shaped by climate change, particularly in renewable energy and green technology jobs”.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the school leaders’ union ASCL, said pupils already learned about climate change, “but we agree with Labour that more could and should be done, and it is a good idea to review the national curriculum in this respect”.

“It is important to ensure that this is not just an add-on to an already packed curriculum and that it is balanced properly with all the other requirements on schools.”

The announcement comes after high-profile protests earlier this year when pupils went “on strike” over climate change.

Rayner said youngsters were “taking to the streets to send a clear message to the government that climate change will be a fundamental and defining feature of their adult lives, and we must take the action needed to tackle it”.

“We need to equip people with the knowledge to understand the enormous changes we face, and skills to work with the new green technologies that we must develop to deal with them.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said it was “important that pupils are taught about climate change”.