Meeting with a minister

As many of you will know, yesterday was the day that Zamzam was planning to meet Gavin Williamson MP, the Secretary of State for Education, to make our case for an English climate emergency education plan, and to ask him for his support.

Quite a few people, including Trudy Harrison, the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, have advised us that it is essential we get Gavin’s support if we are to implement our six asks. Because it is such an important meeting, we had been doing lots of preparation, polishing our pitch, rehearsing our case and pre-empting any challenges we might get. We also asked a few key people to put in a good word for us. We were hoping for a supportive, if slightly guarded, reception from Gavin.

However, late on Friday last week we were notified that Gavin had been called to a COBRA meeting in Number 10 on Monday morning, so we needed to rearrange the meeting, and we are still waiting for a new date. With the coronavirus emergency taking hold, we completely accept the Secretary of State will need to prioritise that above everything else.

On reflection, the delay is not necessarily such a bad thing, as it gives us a bit more time to make our case to MPs and ask them to raise the issue with Williamson, or if they are Conservatives, to put a good word into him for us.

Many thanks to all of you that have written to your MPs along these lines. For those of you that haven’t, you can find our template here! We would really appreciate it if you could do this for us, so we can make the most of the delay in meeting Gavin.

Special thanks to Peter Sainsbury, a retired teacher who is supporting us, for taking the initiative to write to Gavin directly to endorse our campaign! Peter was on a roll and also wrote to Robert Halfon, the Chair of the Education Select Committee, encouraging him to arrange for his Committee to do a joint enquiry with the Environmental Audit Select Committee on the issues we are raising. These spontaneous and sincere letters of support can only help our case and get us noticed, so please don’t hold back!

Zamzam did meet a Minister yesterday. As NUS President she had a pre-arranged meeting with the University Minister Michelle Donelan, who attended our parliamentary reception on 26 February. In the meeting Michelle told Zamzam that she thought Teach the Future was more of an issue for Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, which is a bit worrying given she had attended our reception.

For the record, we are not just after some tweaks to the national curriculum. The curriculum does not cover academies, nor universities, it does not cover teacher training, the empowerment of students to take youth social environmental action, climate anxiety, or net zero buildings.

The education system as a whole need urgently repurposing around the climate emergency and ecological crisis so we can bring forward the date at which society reaches the tipping point from unsustainable to sustainable. This is why we are running Teach the Future, and it is what are determined to deliver.

Our six asks are below. 3-6 are covered in the bill we drafted. 1 and 2 are in the gift of the Secretary of State.

  1. A DfE commissioned review of how the English education system, in its entirety, is preparing young people for the climate emergency and ecological crisis. This is in lieu of us asking for any curriculum changes ourselves, as we feel experts should decide on what needs to be changed. It is also because we feel there needs to be strategy for the whole education system, not just schools.

  2. Changes to the teaching standards, so all new teachers know about the science behind climate emergency and ecological crisis, and the solutions; a new professional qualification on climate for educators; a general duty on educational organisation (including private schools and universities) to teach it; an expectation that a designated member of their senior team will be responsible for this.

  3. Funding for a programme to reskill teachers, tutors and lecturers; a new climate education information institute that will ensure educators stay up to date with the science and are supported with content and appropriate teaching resources; regional centres of excellence in further education on net-zero skills for vocational courses; research on, and support for, students suffering from eco-anxiety.

  4. A youth climate endowment fund that will fund youth social environmental action in every school, college and university. This is to empower students to engage their peers, parents and teachers.

  5. A youth voice grant fund to get youth climate boards in schools, colleges, universities, NHS trusts and local authorities, including provision for training and support.

  6. Net zero educational buildings – all new buildings would meet these standards from 2022, and all existing retrofitted by 2030.

In the meeting, Zamzam used the example of university teacher training courses to bring the message home to Michelle that Teach the Future was most definitely relevant to her formal remit.

Michelle then offered to meet us separately to learn more, which we appreciated, and we will definitely follow-up on that. We will also write to Nick Gibb ask to meet him as well. So, one minister met, three more ministerial meetings to go

We will keep you posted.

Thank you again for all your support and encouragement

Joe Brindle, 17

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Teach the Future is a youth-led campaign to urgently repurpose the entire education system around the climate emergency and ecological crisis.
The English campaign is run by two organisations, UKSCN and SOS-UK.

The Scottish campaign is run by two organisations, FFF Scotland and NUS Scotland.

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