After suggestions earlier in the year that the new National Curriculum was going to drop lessons on climate change as a requirement, the final version put forward this month now says otherwise. Education Secretary Michael Gove has abandoned plans to move climate change to the science syllabus as environmentalists and science teachers claimed that this would downgrade the topic and make its existence a greater cause for debate.
Ed Davey, energy and climate change secretary, battled to keep climate change within the geography syllabus arguing that removing it would lead to a decline in children’s awareness of its importance. Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg has since said that further climate change teaching will be incorporated in the curriculum “in addition to the content that was already present in both science and geography which will give pupils a rigorous, fact-based understanding of the science underpinning climate change.”
This means that all schools will now be required, more than ever, to teach pupils about climate change and man’s impact on the environment. The new curriculum refers “how human and physical processes interact to influence and change landscapes, environments and the climate, and how humans depend on the effective functioning of natural systems.”
The changes are a fantastic opportunity for schools to invest more time in their approach to outdoor learning and environmental citizenship. Making environmental citizenship lessons an integral part of the geography curriculum will allow teachers to deliver these essential messages in a way that truly encourages pupils to think about how their actions affect the world around them.
As we discovered in recent research, looking at our whitepaper report ‘The Outdoor Environment’ one year on, in the majority of cases, teaching children about the environment needs a whole-school approach. Now that elements of it are a requirement of the curriculum, schools may find it simpler to gain the support they need from staff and parents. The new curriculum offers much more flexibility for teachers so, wherever possible, environmental citizenship should help bring the climate change requirements to life. Rather than simply following the textbook curriculum prerequisites on face value, schools and settings need to relish the opportunity to expand in their own way. They need to portray the importance of climate change through real life examples and interesting outdoor learning. Children need to understand their impact on the environment and to care about it because they want to protect their futures, not because it is a requirement to pass an exam.
Thumbnail image source: http://peopleandplanet.org/teach-climate