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The NASUWT, along with NEU, UCU and UNISON has written to the Secretary of State for Education urging him to take action to ensure climate change education becomes fully embedded in ​the system.

As chair of COP 26 it is essential for the UK to lead by example to bring about the changes needed for a more sustainable future, the education unions urge.  

The dire impact of climate change requires an emergency response, including from the education sector, because young people have most to lose from the current lack of direction, say the four unions.  

They say there is concern the government has yet to grasp the gravity of the situation and are calling for important measures to be embedded in the education system. These are:

  • A comprehensive review of the entire curriculum, so that it is preparing and mobilising our whole society for a sustainable future.  

  • As an interim measure, the government should support Jim Knight's Private Member​'s Bill, restoring sustainability as a pillar of the curriculum.  

  • A comprehensive plan to decarbonise the entire education estate by 2030, as part of an overdue refurbishment and repair programme.  

  • A detailed policy on green travel for students, staff, and parents should be developed.  

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:
“Education has a critical contribution to make in educating for climate justice and helping to secure a more sustainable world for future generations. 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.”

Full text of letter below:

Dear Mr Zahawi

Quality Climate Education

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report makes plain, we need a code red response to a code red emergency, and that applies to the education sector too. We believe that, as Chair of COP26 it is incumbent on the UK to lead by example, and as general secretaries of education unions we are calling for the UK Government to work up to the vision outlined by Education International in its Manifesto for climate education, so that Climate Change Education is fully embedded in our system.

As you can see from the Report Card that Education International has just produced, based on its analysis of 73 updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) presented for the COP, no country is doing enough to meet the criteria and the UK comes in 42nd out of 73. We are sure that you agree that that is a poor result in both respects. We believe that the Report provides an agenda to inform overall Government thinking between now and the next COP, to make sure that education is firmly integrated into the plans of all Government departments; and with the education profession fully involved in the development of those plans.

We are pleased that the DFE Sustainability Unit will be announcing its strategy going forward on November 5th, in the middle of the COP, and the Secretary of State will be taking part in an Education Ministers round table alongside UNESCO, the Italian Education Ministry and Teach the Future. This is an opportunity to take world changing steps if the message is clear enough.  

We believe that there are four key announcements that should be made before the COP or at it by the UK government, without which any other initiative, however good in itself, will be seen as window dressing for a lack of strategic urgency.

  • A comprehensive review of the entire curriculum, so that it is preparing and mobilising our whole society for a sustainable future. The "asks" from Teach the Future (see below) summarise how this could be done.

  • As an interim measure, the government should support Jim Knight's Private Members Bill, restoring sustainability as a pillar of the curriculum.

  • A comprehensive plan to decarbonise the entire school estate by 2030, as part of an overdue refurbishment and repair programme.

  • A detailed policy on green travel for students, staff, and parents should be developed.

We look forward to hearing from you in response to these points and would like to explore them with you before the COP, either in correspondence or in a meeting.

Yours sincerely

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