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Hands up for schools to teach care, respect and understanding


Hands up anyone who has emailed their MP about the proposed new National Curriculum and got a reply saying something crushingly similar to the following:

The new draft national curriculum will in fact give pupils a deeper understanding of all climate issues. Climate change is specifically mentioned in the science curriculum, and both climate and weather feature throughout the geography curriculum. Nowhere is this clearer than the science curriculum for 11 to 14 year-olds, which states that pupils should learn about the ‘production of carbon dioxide by human activity and the impact on climate’. This is at least as extensive, and certainly more precise, than the current science curriculum for that age group, which says only that ‘human activity and natural processes can lead to changes in the environment’.


Probably no surprise because the Department for Education issued a statement to this effect on 1 May. Could that be anything to do with the level of challenge they’ve had – including from Energy Secretary Ed Davey?

Perhaps you get the impression from the statement that climate change does actually appear a number of times in the science curriculum. In fact when they say “Nowhere is this clearer” they actually mean “The only place this is clear”.

Climate & energy feature imageWhilst the new curriculum mentions energy, there is little emphasis on renewable and non-renewable power. © Phil Noble / Reuters / Corbis

Fact is, we’ve read the proposed science curriculum and there really isn’t any other mention of climate change. So if you’re under 11, you won’t get to learn about it at school unless your teacher is really committed.

Then there are the many missed opportunities. For example, our 8—9 year olds are required to learn about different types and sources of light and sound – but not energy. They identify common appliances that run on energy and learn about circuits. But there’s no requirement to learn about renewable and non-renewable energy or explore how much we use.

And I don’t know what you think, but just because in geography the words ‘climate’ and ‘weather’ appear – for example “identify seasonal and daily weather patterns” – it doesn’t mean schools will all explore how the climate globally is changing, or how and why this is happening.

Of course, if you are in a school (or your children are in a school) that believes young people have a right to learn about the key issues of our time – then these schools will, as Captain Picard would say “Make is so”. If not, the rest of the proposed curriculum will frame the space for ‘interpretation’.

And in that space, gone is the top level reference to developing pupils’ “awareness and understanding of, and respect for, the environments in which they live, and secure their commitment to sustainable development at a personal, national and global level” (National Curriculum 2000).

Gone is anything about passing on enduring values, developing pupils’ integrity and autonomy or helping them to be “responsible and caring citizens capable of contributing to the development of a just society.”

Content is king in the world of Gove, and that content doesn’t include clear and explicit threads on environmental issues and stewardship embedded throughout – learning about and learning for the environment. We’re calling for climate change to be included throughout the curriculum – and you can too simply by emailing your MP.

Woodland gladeWoodland glade © Cherry Duggan

This week I’ve had many happy walks in the woods and marvelled at those wood anemones. The bluebells are just coming out and the beech leaves are at that moment of exquisite soft unfurling; velvet to the touch.

And in the background? Children’s laughter because, magically, bluebell time seems to be a time when families come out to play! I want these woods and others around the world to be here centuries after I am. I want young people to know what’s needed to help that happen. I want an education system to helps them learn to care and equips them to do so.

What do you want?

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