The urgency of taking climate change action cannot be overstated. In their recent report the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2023) has warned that human induced climate change has caused a significant and irreversible impact on the Earth – with substantial and irreparable loss to biodiversity globally. In parallel, we are witnessing unprecedented levels of eco-anxiety and dissatisfaction amongst children and young people (Hickman et al., 2021). In a recent survey of 2,000 children the environment was the societal issue that children felt most worried about (The Children’s Society, 2022) and are the group most likely to be vulnerable to eco-anxiety (Wu et al., 2020, Coffey et al., 2021, Hickman et al., 2021). To complicate matters further, research indicates that 75% of teachers have not received sufficient professional development regarding climate change (Oxfam and UKSCN, 2019).
Despite this overwhelming landscape, taking action and being hopeful is critical. We believe that environmentally sustainable practices are no longer a luxury, but a necessity for all organisations. To bridge the gap between knowledge and action, it is crucial for all leaders to commit to high-quality, evidence-informed, and strategic environmental interventions that will create a better world for future generations.
That is why, at the Teacher Development Trust (TDT) we’ve taken the time to reflect on what we can do to make sure that children and young people inherit a healthier planet. We know that education plays a crucial role in addressing the climate crisis and so we are proud to support the new alliance Climate Adapted Pathways for Education (CAPE), which advocates for high-quality climate change education in all schools. We have been working with CAPE since they started their journey last summer, and we are committed to their evidence-informed mission.
As with any work we engage with, we are always guided by our core values: Smart, Heart, and Humble.
We are determined to be ‘smart’ and follow the evidence. There are few areas upon which the underlying evidence about the impact is so profound as sustainability and climate change, but we are far less clear about what makes effective climate change education. We know that we have a part to play in helping teachers and education leaders understand the complexity of these topics so that they can provide effective education for all students.
Second, we want to operate with ‘heart’. We want to work in ways that are supportive of children and young people, as well as the teachers and leaders working in this space. This means finding ways to provide professional development opportunities that address the challenges schools face in relation to curriculum, workload, and wellbeing. Especially with rising levels of eco-anxiety among students, it is vital that we offer professional development that emphasises protective factors for all members of the school community.
Third, we are ‘humble’. We know this is an emerging area of work – albeit an urgent one – and we want to ensure that we play our part in developing better ways for the education system to respond, learning from collective mistakes, and tirelessly looking for more effective solutions.
We fully support CAPE’s mission that our education system needs to prioritise three key areas to tackle climate change education:
- Implementation – integrating climate change education across the entire school system, from leadership to students.
- Curriculum – creating a well-sequenced, coherent story of climate change that is subject specific; and,
- Professional development – equipping school leaders and teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to teach climate change effectively.
At TDT, we are determined to play our part in helping to deliver CAPE’s mission by sharing our expertise on what makes effective professional development. In support of this we are delighted to announce that we are partnering with CAPE and Leeds Trinity University working alongside organisations like the Natural History Museum, Earthwatch and Learning through Landscapes to pilot a professional development programme for school leaders that aligns with TDT’s approach to professional development and the knowledge within the National Professional Qualification (NPQ) frameworks. Through CAPE’s leadership this programme will be evidence-informed and equip educators with the domain specific knowledge needed to implement school improvement in this space and build climate literacy.
We are confident that the education sector can make a significant contribution to addressing climate change. By collaborating with like-minded organisations and investing in professional development, we can empower school leaders and teachers to educate the next generation on this critical issue. It’s time that we work together to make high-quality climate change education a priority in schools across the country, building a sustainable future for us all.
Coffey, Y., Bhullar, N., Durkin, J., Islam, M.S. and Usher, K. (2021). Understanding Eco-anxiety: A Systematic Scoping Review of Current Literature and Identified Knowledge Gaps. The Journal of Climate Change and Health, 3, p.100047.
Hickman, C., Marks, E., Pihkala, P., Clayton, S., Lewandowski, R.E., Mayall, E.E., Wray, B., Mellor, C. and van Susteren, L. (2021). Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: a global survey. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(12), pp.e863–e873. doi:10.1016/s2542-5196(21)00278-3.
IPCC (2023). SYNTHESIS REPORT OF THE IPCC SIXTH ASSESSMENT REPORT (AR6) Summary for Policymakers 4. Available at: https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6syr/pdf/IPCC_AR6_SYR_SPM.pdf. [Accessed: 11 April 2023].
The Children’s Society. (2022). The Good Childhood Report. Available at: https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/2022-09/GCR-2022-Full-Report.pdf [Accessed: 11 April 2023].
UKSCN/Oxfam. (2019). Climate Change Education. Available at: https://uploads-ssl.webflow.com/6008334066c47be740656954/602d3c3c704f2324e80a72b5_20191125_UKSCN%20Oxfam%20teachers%20and%20climate%20change%20survey.pdf [Accessed: 11 April 2023].
Wu, J., Snell, G. and Samji, H. (2020). Climate anxiety in young people: a call to action. The Lancet Planetary Health, [online] 4(10). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/s2542-5196(20)30223-0. [Accessed: 11 April 2023].