Climate crisis education needs to be fully embedded in curriculum, say unions

Four unions have appealed to the government to make climate crisis education fully embedded in the system, ahead of Cop26 talks in Glasgow.

The unions – representing school, college and university staff – have warned that young people have the most to lose from the lack of direction on climate change.

Leaders of the National Education Union (NEU), the NASUWT teaching union, the University and College Union (UCU) and Unison say ministers should introduce a comprehensive plan to “decarbonise the entire school estate by 2030” as part of an overdue refurbishment and repair programme.

In a joint letter to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi the unions also called for a review of the curriculum to ensure everyone is mobilised for a “sustainable future”.

The letter also suggests that teacher training standards could be amended to include learning about the climate emergency and a new professional qualification for teachers on climate could be created to address concerns.

It says the measures should be announced before or during the UN climate summit because any other initiative will “be seen as window dressing for a lack of strategic urgency”.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “The UK government needs to step up to ensure teachers have the resources and tools to provide access to curriculum entitlements that give all children and young people the opportunity to develop their understanding of environmental issues and to be responsible citizens.

“We also need to see much more action from the government to deliver substantial improvements to the energy efficiency of existing school buildings which have suffered from significant under-investment over decades”.

The assistant general secretary of Unison, Jon Richards, said: “Not only is it vital young people learn about a greener tomorrow but the government must ensure schools are able to practise what they teach.

“Classrooms and facilities need significant investment to ensure they reach net zero targets, and transport for pupils, staff and parents has to be sustainable.”

A government spokesperson said: “Climate change is embedded in multiple subjects in the national curriculum throughout primary and secondary school, and we launched a new Environmental Science A-level to give students the opportunity to study the subject further.

“We are also investing millions in long-term projects to build greener and more energy-efficient schools, and in initiatives to encourage more people to walk and cycle to school”.