By William Hallowell, CP News Reporter.

The Government will introduce climate change into the science curriculum by 2023, the Education Secretary has announced in his COP26 speech. 

Nadhim Zahawi has announced a range of new measures during his COP26 speech on Friday, which includes teaching children the importance of conserving and protecting the planet as a part of the national science curriculum. 

This change to the syllabus is expected to come into place by 2023, and aims to teach children about nature and their impact on the world. 

Zahawi said:

“We want to deliver a better, safer, greener world for future generations of young people and education is one of our key weapons in the fight against climate change. Empowering teachers in every school to deliver world-leading climate change education will not only raise awareness and understanding of the problem, but also equips young people with the skills and knowledge to build a sustainable future.

“The COP26 summit has further amplified the UK’s commitments to become a world leader in sustainability right across the education system by engaging young people and bringing them on our journey towards net zero and a green future.

“And it goes beyond the classroom – our National Education Nature Park and Climate Leaders Awards will let pupils get hands on experience of understanding, nurturing and protecting the biodiversity around them.”

School children will be encouraged to become more involved with nature by increasing biodiversity and making small steps, like installing bird feeders in the grounds of their nurseries, schools and sixth form colleges. Improving biodiversity is hoped to have a significant impact on the environment. 

To encourage children and young people to become more involved with the environment and educated on the effects and impact of climate change, they will be able to undertake a new, annual Climate Award, in recognition of the work they do. 

Students will be able to progress through different levels of the award, from ‘bronze’, ‘silver’ and ‘gold’, in a similar way to how the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme works.

Additionally, all further education teachers trained through an apprenticeship will be required to integrate sustainability into their teaching, through modelling sustainable practices and promoting sustainable development principles in relation to their subject specialism, from December 2021.

These new measures will be developed over the next 6 months in collaboration with students, teachers, sustainability experts and environmentalists before April 2022.

Zahawi’s announcement comes as various green activist groups have been putting increased pressure on the Government to make climate change education a mandatory aspect of the school curriculum. 

Labour MP, Nadia Whittome, who works with the student-led campaign Teach the Future, said:

“This is a win for our campaign, led by youth climate activists at Teach the Future. But it’s not enough. Climate education will still be voluntary. We need a comprehensive curriculum review, teacher training and to decarbonise the education sector faster.”

The Teach the Future campaign said on Twitter that this move from the Education Secretary is a “great step forwards”, but questions: “is it enough?”. 

Assistant Director-General for Education of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Stefania Giannini, said:

“For the future of our planet, we need to learn for our planet. We welcome the United Kingdom’s commitment to climate education through its efforts to place sustainability at the heart of their education system.

“New UNESCO data found only half of national educational frameworks have a reference to climate change in them so we are partnering with the Department for Education for today’s event at COP26 where global education leaders will be able to make pledges that set out how they will tackle climate change through education in their countries.”

Italian Minister of Education Patrizio Bianchi said:

“These steps from the UK, as well as the many other pledges we have received, recognise the vital role of education in the fight against climate change. 

“In Italy, we have introduced climate and sustainability education as a key part of learning to provide everyone with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to learn for our planet and act for positive change.

“If other countries do the same as us, the UK and other G20 nations then we stand a better chance of winning this fight.”

Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street.

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