On Tuesday the 2nd of March, the Senedd debated the issue of climate education as part of the process of passing the Curriculum and Assessments Bill to introduce a new education framework for pupils across Wales.
Teach the Future Wales submitted eight amendments to the Bill, discovering that there was very little input on the teaching of the climate and ecological crisis in the guidance provided by the government. The issue with the current curriculum is that the climate crisis is only taught briefly in Science and GCSE or A-Level Geography if students opt to take it. However, the content frames the climate crisis as only a scientific issue with far off consequences for future generations, when in fact climate change is an intersectional global issue and is affecting people across the globe, predominantly the Global South right now.
The idea for this amendment sparked during our meeting with Llyr Gruffydd, the Plaid Cymru Shadow Environment Minister, when we met with him in late January to introduce our campaign, after only establishing our campaign three months prior. We were informed that the new Welsh curriculum was going through its final stages of review in the Senedd. We realised that this was a massive opportunity as the Welsh education system was unlikely to be reviewed or rewritten for a long time. Soon after, we set to work with the new idea of tabling an amendment to the Curriculum and Assessments Bill based on our four Welsh asks of implementing climate justice education and sustainable practices. Llyr Gruffydd strongly supported our asks, being the one to suggest we table an amendment to the Bill with Llyr officially submitting it to the Senedd, optimistic that his party would back climate education.
The Wales team began to reach out to other politicians over the next four weeks, specifically targeting the Conservative Party and Labour backbenchers as we knew that our ideas and goals would be less popular with the Education Minister Kirsty Williams and the Labour Government. They were quite firm with their ideas for what the future curriculum would feature. We met with the Conservative Shadow Environment Minister Janet Finch-Saunders, Leader of Propel Neil McEvoy, Jenny Rathbone and Mick Antoniw from the Labour Party. Furthermore, many supporters of Teach the Future wrote to their MSs asking to support our amendments, which politicians responded to.
However, time was running out before the final date of submission, and we had not heard back from Llyr Gruffydd on whether he had tabled the amendment, and we later heard that unfortunately the Environment Minister had contracted Coronavirus and was unable to work for two weeks. As we were uncertain if our amendments would be tabled, we attempted to reach out to other politicians but failed to find anyone willing to help us last minute.
It was Monday evening, the night before the amendment deadline, we had already given up on the hope of tabling our amendments. But just before turning in for the night, one of our volunteers received an email from Llyr Gruffydd’s Office informing us that he was trying to table our amendment. Soon after, we received an email from Llyr updating us that he had successfully tabled the amendment, and to our amazement, his team had done it with one minute to spare before the deadline. We received notice from the Welsh Conservatives that were fully endorsing our amendments and sent us a formal letter of confirmation that they would vote in favour during the debate.
With our motivation restored, we continued to work on our campaign, swiftly organising three successful Twitter Storms in the run-up to the debate with some of our supporting organisations participating. Our social media campaign provoked some responses gaining a few last-minute meetings with Labour politicians. We proceeded to live-stream the debate with the support of Scottish and English Teach the Future volunteers watching alongside the Welsh team on Senedd TV. We were all disappointed to hear that all eight of our amendments failed to pass. The Welsh Government voted against introducing the well-needed climate justice education into our curriculum, with our main amendment voted down, 20 votes to 31 votes.
However, from this process we were successful in building relationships with politicians who supported our asks and campaign, we were mentioned in Senedd records, and most importantly, we created debate in the Senedd around the need for climate justice education in schools. The Welsh Government acknowledged that climate education is an important issue and promised its inclusion in the new curriculum’s guidance.