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Teach for the Future: Greening the national curriculum

Do you feel like you learnt enough about climate change in school? Most likely, you didn't as only 44% in a national survey of students felt like they had. If you think that's disgraceful than I have good news for you. In the last few months the National Union of Students (NUS) launched a partner charity called Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS). SOS's first campaign is 'Teach the Future' which aims to incorporate sustainability into the wider English curriculum instead of the topic being squeezed into either Geography or Science. The campaign includes the first ever legislation to be drafted by pupils and students: The Climate Emergency Education Bill!

The Climate Emergency Education Bill has extensive demands from students across the UK for sustainability to be included in all parts of their education, as well as a guide for supporting teachers and student voices. There's even proposed money earmarked for making educational buildings net-zero carbon. Here's an excerpt from the Bill's cover that explains all of the demands in a bit more detail:
  1. A government commissioned review into how the whole of the English formal education system is preparing students for the climate emergency and ecological crisis (in the gift of the Secretary of State); 
  2. Inclusion of the climate emergency and ecological crisis in teacher training and a new professional teaching qualification (in the gift of the Secretary of State); 
  3. An English Climate Emergency Education Act that: 
  • obligates education providers to teach the climate emergency and ecological crisis, and to have a member of their leadership team responsible for it; 
  • provides new funding for: the upskilling of existing teachers and lecturers; development of teaching resources; vocational centres of excellence on low carbon skills; establishing youth voice climate boards; more youth-led climate and environmental social action; support with eco-anxiety; 
  • requires, and provides new funding, to ensure all new state-funded educational buildings are net-zero from 2022, and all existing state-funded educational buildings are net-zero by 2030. 
Emma and I were lucky enough to win a competition and get spots on the exclusive guest list for the launch of the Bill at Parliament on the 26 February 2020! We met up with the 46 students aged 13-26 in Parliament Square for photos before heading into the main event at Parliament. The reception was filled with students, representatives from environmental and educational charities, and MPs. We spoke with everyone, advocating for the Bill, before stopping to watch the speeches. Speeches were given by students, Parliamentarians, and educational leaders all emphasizing the urgent need for educating pupils across the nation about the climate emergency and its effects. Interestingly, most of the speakers emphasised the need for the social and economic effects of climate change to be included in the curriculum alongside the environmental. As Emma and I are quite 'in the know' about the devastating social effects of climate change it was good to be reminded that not everyone does. We left the event feeling inspired and ready to tackle sustainability challenges in Bristol and beyond!

If you want to support the Teach for the Future campaign write to your MP and ask them to help make the Bill into law.

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This blog was written by Anya Kaufman, a Sustainability masters student at the University of Bristol.

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