The Challenges We Face

Sonya Peres and Tess Corcoran
February 11, 2021

We often broadcast all things positive about our campaign, which is great, and it’s amazing that there are lots of good updates, and that we’re making so much progress! However, it’s important to also talk about the challenges we face, so that people can better understand our campaign. 

The challenges we face in Scotland are different from those in England, which are in turn different from the problems faced in Wales. In Scotland, we are lucky to have the general support of most parties, however, we have two main challenges.

Firstly, the way the curriculum is structured in Scotland makes it difficult to make anything compulsory, as currently there is very little that is mandatory to be taught in Scottish education.

There are a few Acts which layout the responsibilities of local authorities in the provision of education, though these Acts are vague and do not include what should actually be taught - there are only a couple of exceptions. The duties of Educational authorities and parents are stated in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. The most significant duties laid out are “It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of school age to provide efficient education for him suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by causing him to attend a public school regularly or by other means.” and that Educational Authorities have the requirement to “secure that there is made for their area adequate and efficient provision of school education.” Very little information is given to clarify what is classed as “adequate and efficient education.” There are guidelines, such as those laid out in the Experiences and Outcomes statements. However there is nothing, apart from the teaching of Gaelic in Gaelic speaking areas, and the requirement of  Educational Authorities to ”continue to provide religious observance and instruction where this has been the custom” which officially has to be taught at any stage of the education system in Scotland.

And here comes our first hurdle. It is difficult to add something new to the curriculum at the best of times, but when you are trying to change the way the curriculum works, the job becomes a little harder. There is currently nothing that is compulsory to be taught across Scotland; we are working to ensure climate education is mandatory, because, in reality, it is absolutely compulsory if we are to inherit a world rapidly changing due to human actions. Teach the Future to believe that whatever the reasoning for the current structure of the Curriculum, the topic of climate change and climate justice is important enough to change this. The Scottish Climate and Biodiversity Emergency Education Act would introduce climate education as a compulsory topic throughout Scottish Education, to ensure students are equipped with the knowledge, skills and competencies to address the challenges we are inheriting. 


The second problem we face is that many people believe our Asks [MB1] have already been achieved by the provision of Learning for Sustainability (LfS). LfS was introduced in 2013 as an approach to the curriculum to provide students with education and skills to advance sustainability. The approach is holistic and ambitious and takes great steps towards widespread education about the climate crisis. Often, when we reach out to MSPs about our work, we receive replies that our aims have been achieved through the adoption of Learning for Sustainability in the Curriculum of Excellence and therefore our work should be done. While we appreciate the existence of the approach and the teachers who utilise it, we'd like to clarify how our Asks aim to support and broaden the reach and scope of Learning for Sustainability in the Curriculum of Excellence.

Unfortunately Learning for Sustainability is not compulsory, which leaves climate education at the discretion of teachers. While it is great to give teachers flexibility in how they develop and implement teaching and learning, delivering climate education relies on teachers having the knowledge, values and confidence to embed sustainability in their teaching. It also relies on teachers having the resources and capacity to do this. Many teacher education courses in Scotland appear to not have been updated or reviewed to include substantive content on the climate emergency, climate justice and the ecological crisis. We are calling [MB3] for the inclusion of the climate crisis in teacher training and the introduction of climate change as a mandatory part of the curriculum to broaden and support Learning for Sustainability. 

While our campaign faces a few challenges, we are determined to communicate the necessity and urgency of climate education. We know that campaigning to implement these changes will be difficult, but absolutely worth it.