The University and College Union (UCU), National Education Union (NEU), Education Institute of Scotland (EIS), National Union of Students (NUS), Teach the Future and SOS-UK today (Thursday) launched a set of downloadable climate and sustainability teaching resources for schools, colleges and universities to support our joint Climate Learning Month initiative taking place from October 2021 in the run-up to COP 26 in November. 

Through extreme weather events, we are seeing how our world is being ravaged by the effects of climate change and it is young people who stand to lose the most from the current lack of direction. Sadly, the UK government is not doing enough to recognise the urgency or to embed climate change across the curriculum. It is also failing to give education staff the training and support that is required. Despite the UK hosting COP 26 in just two months’ time, we are yet to see an agreed strategy to deliver this. 

The aim of Climate Learning Month is to support educators in all sectors to integrate activities and themes around the climate and ecological crisis into school, college and university campus activities. We hope the learning materials and CPD courses will inspire both educators and young people to bring about the changes needed for a more sustainable future and that the momentum from this initiative will continue beyond COP26 and encourage governments to do more. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘Education can empower students to make a difference to the world, and that is no different in the context of climate change. However, up to now the UK Government has failed to invest in young people’s climate education. That’s why UCU, alongside other education unions and campaign groups, have created these teaching resources so educators working in our schools, colleges and universities can teach students about the urgency of this crisis and how best to tackle it. A more sustainable future requires investing in the young people who will help to build it.’

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: ‘The UK Government must commit to properly resourcing climate change education, as well as all the other changes that are needed to help deliver Net Zero and do so as a matter of priority.  It is vital that every student leaves education climate-literate, equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to tackle climate change, adapt to uncertainties, and take part in building a more sustainable future.  For this to happen, teachers and support staff require training and support to provide quality climate change education.’

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: ‘Climate change is one of the most significant challenges facing the world today, and it is through our young people that we can overcome that challenge. Young people across the globe have already shown great leadership in facing up to climate change, and we must do all that we can to support them. With COP26 coming up in Glasgow, now is a particularly opportune moment to launch these new resources to aid teachers and lecturers in delivering high quality climate change education for young people in our schools, colleges and universities.’

NUS-USI president Ellen Fearon said: ‘Education at its core has the power to change our world, and we’ve never been more in need of systemic and radical changes in our society than in the face of a global climate crisis. It’s essential that students are being equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to tackle the climate crisis and protect our futures. The UK government must urgently commit to funding and resourcing lifelong climate education across all subject areas, from early years to workplace learning.’

SOS-UK executive director Jamie Agombar said: ‘The climate and ecological crisis is the greatest problem of our time. Urgent action is needed to address this and education is one of the most powerful tools we can use to create a whole societal shift, which is why SOS-UK and our campaigns are calling for climate education to be integrated, mandatory and assessed. Climate education needs to be a golden thread, spanning every area of learning at every level so we can enable sustainability to be at the forefront of thinking and decision making. This Climate Learning Month is just the beginning! SOS-UK support and encourage educators to join this journey and be part of the change that we need to see.’

Teach the Future student campaigners Phoebe Thomas and Thiziri Boussaid said: ‘By integrating one of today’s most pressing issues (if not the MOST pressing issue) into children’s secondary education, the messages and truth of the situation can be genuinely understood by the students, influencing their interests and choices throughout life - day to day decisions and also life changing choices such as their future goals and career. 68% of students want to know more about climate change and 75% of teachers feel they have not had adequate training in regards to teaching it.’

Ends