Department for Education announces plans to be ‘world leader’ in sustainability

New plans announced today by Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi outline the UK education sector’s ambition to become a world leader in climate education. 

Launched as part of the Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy, secondary school students will be able to study a new GCSE in natural history by September 2025. 

Young people will learn about organisms, environments and sustainability issues as part of the qualification which could lead to a career in sustainability.  

The strategy also detailed how measures announced at COP26 would be developed, such as the virtual National Education Nature Park which will teach children about biodiversity. 

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that young people are already very committed to a more sustainable planet. We should be proud of this, and I want to do everything I can to encourage this passion so they can be agents of change in protecting our planet.’

The strategy mentioned that ultra-low carbon education buildings designed with the Gen Zero platform will be accelerated, with at least four schools and one college to be built by 2025. 

white table with black chairs

Carbon literacy training is also to be accelerated, to support locally maintained schools in developing climate action plans and put in measures to increase climate resilience. 

However, the strategy has been met with criticism from some who believe it doesn’t go far enough. 

The school climate campaign, Let’s Go Zero, which represents 1,200 schools, colleges and nurseries, said the announcement was a step in the right direction, but didn’t meet the urgency of the crisis we are facing. 

Harriet Lamb, CEO of climate charity Ashden which leads the Let’s Go Zero campaign, said: ‘We welcome many aspects of this strategy, including our suggestions that every school have a Climate Action Plan, a Sustainability Lead, and include sustainability and climate change in teacher training. But providing schools with the means to decarbonise quickly was glaringly absent in the strategy.

‘We’d give them a “Good” for effort but it simply doesn’t reflect the need for drastic and urgent action as so recently highlighted by the IPCC. We cannot fail our children and jeopardise their future by being too slow.’ 

Let’s Go Zero is calling for the Department of Education to urgently retrofit schools and commit to all schools being zero carbon by 2030. 

Photo by MChe Lee

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