On 21 April 2022, the Department for Education (DfE) published a policy paper  for English schools entitled
Sustainability and climate change: a strategy for the education and children’s services systems
It says the DfE has an important role to play in all aspects of sustainability, and the area in which it has most work to do is reducing England’s environmental footprint, particularly in the drive to achieve net zero.
DfE and the education sector have a joint responsibility for preparing children and young people for the challenges and opportunities they will face – with the appropriate knowledge, skills and pastoral care.
Secretary of State, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “We commit to the integration of sustainability and climate change in formal education systems, including as core curriculum components, in guidelines, teacher training, examination standards and at multiple levels through institutions.”
Criticism of the Strategy
In a blog post on the UK National Association for Environmental Education (NAEE) website , Teach the Future  say, among many other criticisms “In our view, [integrated sustainability and climate education} would entail weaving relevant sustainability and climate change content into subjects across the national curriculum. We believe that integrating learning for sustainability is essential if we are to put the climate emergency and ecological crisis at the heart of the education system, which is where it needs to be given the magnitude of the problems we face, and that every career and life is going to be massively implicated by the climate emergency and ecological crisis.
“The new strategy makes no mention of integrating climate education. Instead, it offers up the optional GCSE in Natural History as a quick fix easy alternative. It is one of only two new pieces of curriculum, the other being the new primary science model curriculum.
“We maintain that the UK cannot, and will not, be a “world leader” in climate education unless it integrates climate and sustainability into the national curriculum. We are vehemently opposed to the DfE positioning itself as world leader on climate with a national curriculum that has most of the climate content in optional geography, and only basic content in science, as it sends a misleading message to other countries as to what world-leading looks like. ”
Outline of the Strategy
The DfE’s vision is to make the United Kingdom the world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change by 2030. They say in England, we will achieve this through the following strategic aims:
- Excellence in education and skills for a changing world: preparing all young people for a world impacted by climate change through learning and practical experience.
- Net zero: reducing direct and indirect emissions from education and care buildings, driving innovation to meet legislative targets and providing opportunities for children and young people to engage practically in the transition to net zero.
- Resilience to climate change: adapting our education and care buildings and system to prepare for the effects of climate change.
- A better environment for future generations: enhancing biodiversity, improving air quality and increasing access to, and connection with, nature in and around education and care settings.
The Strategy envisions the whole physical education estate as a virtual National Education Nature Park.
A Climate Leaders Award will complement classroom learning and allow England to celebrate and recognise education providers, children and young people.
Senior leadership teams and governors.need to provide Sustainability Leadership. But leaders will need more support to:
- share best practice
- access funding
- develop networks
Action area 1: Climate education
1. Learning about the natural environment
2. Support for teaching
3. Learning in the natural environment
By 2025 DfE aims to introduce a natural history GCSE, giving young people a further opportunity to engage with and develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of the natural world. In studying this GCSE, young people will explore organisms and environments in more depth, gain knowledge and practical experience of fieldwork and develop a greater understanding of conservation.
Action area 2: Green skills and careers
1. Net Zero Strategy
2. Additional support for green jobs and skills
3. Support and guidance for green careers
Action area 3: Education estate and digital infrastructure
1. New builds and new blocks
2. Existing estate
3. Resilience, adaptation, access to Nature and environment conditions
4. Heating solutions
5. Water strategy
6. Reporting Frameworks, Reporting Processes and Targets
Action area 4: Operations and supply chains
Action area 5: International
Champion education and learning on the global stage
Inspire, share and learn
Trade and exports
Leadership, engagement and next steps
 Government page announcing policy paper: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sustainability-and-climate-change-strategy/sustainability-and-climate-change-a-strategy-for-the-education-and-childrens-services-systems
 NAEE’s comments on the strategy: https://naee.org.uk/the-dfes-new-strategy/
 Teach the Future website: https://www.teachthefuture.uk/