The Launch of Curriculum for a Changing Climate

Maya Hoare
September 17, 2022

Teach the Future are really excited to announce the launch of Curriculum for a Changing Climate: track changes review of the national curriculum for England.

The first-of-its-kind report reviews the curriculum for key stages 3 and 4 in the English National Curriculum, covering subjects ranging from History to Art and Design. Using a 'tracked changes' methodology the report suggests where and how the national curriculum can be amended to include sustainability and respond to the climate and ecological crisis.  

At Teach the Future, we believe that students need to be taught about the climate emergency and ecological crisis: how they are caused, what we can do to mitigate them and what our future lives and jobs are going to look like due to them. We believe the majority of teaching and learning throughout the entirety of our education system is misaligned with the systemic changes urgently required to make our society sustainable. Therefore, sustainability and the climate crises need to become key content in all subject areas and educators need to be trained in how to teach about these difficult topics in a way that empowers students - and they need funding and resources to do this.

The report is a comprehensive guide, working alongside our Climate Education Bill for England and Wales, to show leaders exactly how and why climate education should be integrated into the curriculum. This project clearly demonstrates that climate education shouldn’t be siloed and restricted to certain subjects like Science and Geography. Instead, climate education should permeate the entire curriculum in order to equip students with the necessary tools to understand and deal with the climate crisis. It also shows that the curriculum does not necessarily require a huge amount of additional content: our vision for climate education can be realised through repurposing current content, making considered edits, and shifting focus and framing.

We know that teachers and students alike support our vision for climate education. According to the recent Pearson report, 47% of headteachers want climate change incorporated into the national curriculum with as much time and emphasis as core subjects, and 61% of teachers say the current education system is not successfully developing tolerant, sustainably-minded global citizens of the future. 

As young people, we feel our education system routinely fails to educate, prepare and equip us for the climate emergency. Personally, I grew up attending comprehensive schools in Coventry and my exposure to climate education was limited. Yes, we learnt about carbon emissions, recycling, natural disasters, and of course, how to turn the light off when leaving a classroom. I believe what is central to this project, yet was missing in my education, is empowerment. We do need to learn facts about climate change, but we also need to learn how to engage with the climate crisis so that we feel empowered to participate in tackling it, rather than hopeless.  

Similarly, one of our volunteers, Katherine, talked about how being given a space to share concerns and communicate openly, can foster a sense of community. She says, “Breaking these barriers and supporting each other from a young age would have been extremely beneficial for myself as I now navigate growing up in a world where such honest conversations and awareness can be rare in the everyday”.

And I know we are not the only ones to feel this way. According to SOS-UK's Schools and Sustainability research, 42% of young people aged 9-18 say they have learnt a little, hardly anything or nothing about the environment at school and 68% are interested in learning more about the environment. Without sufficient climate education, the onus is on us to educate ourselves, which, at worst, can result in misinformation and eco-anxiety. If the Curriculum for a Changing Climate is implemented, young people would be able to discuss and learn about our environment and sustainability in a safe, controlled environment, leaving them prepared for our ever-changing world. 

If you missed the launch webinar, you can watch the recording online.

You can view the full report, read the revised curricula for the subjects, or check out the executive summary.

A huge thanks to the authors of the report, Paul Vare, Else Lee & Alex Catallo, and to all the teachers, educators and students who fed into it. We’d also like to thank the Edge, National Association for Environmental Education (NAEE) and Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK) for all their support.