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Teachers call for action on sustainability education



New research has shown that over 90 per cent of primary school teachers in England believe they should be teaching children about the effects of climate change, despite sustainability no longer being a statutory requirement in the curriculum. 

The study – commissioned as part of Bristol’s year as the UK’s first European Green Capital – found that over half (51 per cent) of those surveyed felt it should be a high priority in primary school education, regardless of the national curriculum. However, over three quarters (76 per cent) say they do not have the right resources to teach sustainability in the classroom. The findings are revealed as global leaders prepare to gather in Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) which, for the first time in over 20 years of negotiations, will aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, to keep global warming below a 2°C temperature rise. But leading environmental and education experts are calling on UK government to do more to engage young people in sustainability, to achieve radical, long-term behaviour change.

Founder of Forum for the Future and environmental commentator, Jonathon Porritt, said: “Both in the UK and internationally, it’s crucial that governments act now to avoid a dangerous rise in global temperature. The starting point should be engaging the next generation. It’s vital that we encourage and instil positive environmental behaviours in young people now, to help shape a different future than the one we are currently heading towards.”

Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, Alice Roberts added: “This is about engaging with important challenges facing the whole of humanity. By 2050, there will be 9 billion humans on Earth. How can we sustain the growing global human population while treading more gently on the land?

“By engaging the next generation in the debate, we can hope to instil healthy and sustainable habits which may last a lifetime, but also – more importantly – sow the seeds of awareness, debate and enquiry which will be essential tools in solving perhaps the greatest challenge facing us today.”

shaun_in_circle_0Bristol 2015, the organisation set up to facilitate Bristol’s year as European Green Capital, will launch a new UK-wide education resource this week, designed to put sustainability back on the education agenda. Nearly all primary school teachers surveyed (96 per cent) said they would use a dedicated resource that enabled them to teach sustainability while covering multiple curriculum objectives. The national schools programme, which incorporates an award winning game – Sustainable Shaun – designed by Aardman, will be shared with delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris. It will be a key component of Bristol’s contribution to the debate.

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, concluded: “One of the most important legacies from our year as European Green Capital will be the creation of our inspirational education programme for schools, designed to give primary school teachers the tools they need to bring sustainability to life in the classroom. At Paris COP21, Bristol will share this new resource with decision makers from around the world, and we hope to inspire best practice in environmental education on a global scale.”

The Bristol 2015 schools programme can be found at Designed by teachers for teachers, it incorporates lesson plans that can be used across multiple subject areas and curriculum objectives.

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