Climate change

What’s promising about the DfE’s new sustainability and climate change strategy? – FE News

On 21 April 2022 the Department for Education (DfE) launched its new Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy. There were good reasons to celebrate. To begin with, the strategy enabled the government to recognize the vital role of the higher education and training sector, and the education system more broadly, in contributing to the achievement of sustainability goals.

The existence of a climate change and sustainability unit within the DfE, and the publication of a strategy that fights for climate action and net zero targets with such ambition, is a significant step forward. In this three-part series, I’ll share my analysis of the strategy’s highlights, identify some notable omissions, and discuss how the strategy will affect FE vendors. Let’s start with the highlights.

A well-aligned strategy

The strategy is built on a solid foundation of guiding principles, including partnership and collaboration, evidence and insight, leadership and support, and a holistic systems approach. It is also well aligned with broader government policies such as the Net Zero Strategyand responds to the education recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, the Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity, and the Green Jobs Task Force Report.

It is reassuring to see that the strategy reflects the vision of the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) in education for sustainable development (ESD) that “all learners will be learners of sustainability”. Like the DfE writing in the strategy, “green jobs will not be niches. We foresee that sustainability and climate change will affect all careers.” The ETF has long championed the teaching of sustainability beyond just STEM subjects, where sustainability education is traditionally found. We recently published three new educational resources to help suppliers improve their ESD offer on all subjects.

Embedding inclusivity

The ETF is committed to enabling people from disadvantaged backgrounds to access these opportunities. It is therefore encouraging to see the strategy recognize the need for the transition to a sustainable future to be a socially just transition, directly addressing inclusiveness: careers”. will enable the transition to a diverse green workforce, however, it is important to note that the strategy does not go into detail on how this will be achieved.

Highlighting success to date

The DfE has also been careful to acknowledge the work already underway within the sector and the significant contribution it has made so far: “Many providers are already taking steps to integrate relevant sustainability and climate change in all of their courses… We recognize all that is already being done across all sectors by individuals, governance boards and enthusiastic management teams”. This recognition is important for organizations that are already applying effective holistic approaches to the challenges of sustainability and climate change. It celebrates industry pioneers who have already led change successfully and showcases existing effective practices for others to learn from.

Teaching standards are essential

Just as the Skills for Employment White Paper demonstrated that excellence in teaching is essential to the success of the sector, this strategy recognizes a commitment to “developing a professional standard for the teaching of lifelong learning, which explicitly requires all new teachers to integrate sustainability into their teaching. , modeling sustainable practices and promoting the principles of sustainable development in relation to their specialty.

Thanks to the work of the ETF, this commitment is already well on the way to being fulfilled, as we have facilitated the introduction of ESD into professional standards for Level 5 Learning and Skills Teacheras well as the latest revision of the Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers and upcoming revisions of the minimum foundation for initial teacher education.

A final strength of the strategy is how it makes it clear to educators that they absolutely can teach about the climate crisis with political impartiality.

The DfE states:

“Teaching about climate change, and the science and evidence behind it, is not teaching about a political issue and schools do not need to present misinformation or unsubstantiated claims to bring balance.”

This gives schools and colleges the agency to teach climate education in a way that explores relevant political and scientific debates and, as the strategy recommends, to address topics in line with legal obligations of schools regarding political impartiality.

Look forward

All in all, there’s a lot to celebrate. The strategy was informed by young people, sustainability and climate change experts and industry representatives, including the ETF. It is committed to actions being reviewed and updated annually to respond to new opportunities, scientific updates, evidence and data, and there is a real opportunity to further shape the way the FE sector and training supports the strategy.

It would be great to see in future iterations, and in the sector’s response to the strategy, an improved comprehensive report on ESD action as well as an expansion of the ambition of the strategy to include some of the missing elements in its version inaugural. In the next article, I will take a closer look at how the strategy could be developed further.

By Charlotte Bonner, National Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Manager at the Education and Training Foundation (ETF)

This is article 1 of a 3 part series, keep an eye out for our next articles!

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