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Climate Change: Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL5638, tabled on 15 June 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether the education system adequately reflects the challenges presented by climate change in terms of (1) the curriculum, (2) teacher training, and (3) the energy efficiency of educational facilities.

Answered on

29 June 2020

It is vital that young people are taught about climate change. For this reason, related topics are included throughout both the science and geography curricula and GCSEs. In primary science and geography, pupils are given a firm foundation for the further study of the environment in secondary school. For example, in primary science pupils are taught about how environments can change as a result of human actions. They will learn about animals’ habitats, including that changes to the environment may pose dangers to living things.

In secondary science, pupils are taught about the production of carbon dioxide by human activity and the effect this has on the climate. This is expanded on in GCSE science where pupils will consider the evidence for additional anthropogenic causes of climate change. As part of GCSE geography pupils will look at the causes, consequences of and responses to extreme weather conditions and natural weather hazards. In 2017, we also introduced a new environmental science A level. This will enable students to study topics that will support their understanding of climate change and how it can be tackled.

School and teachers can go beyond the topics set out in the national curriculum, or do more in-depth teaching of these topic areas, if they so wish.

We are supporting recruitment and retention of teachers in these subjects to ensure that schools have the expertise to teach topics relating to climate change effectively. In science, trainee teachers are offered bursaries of £26,000 and scholarships of £28,000 to attract top science graduates into teaching. New physics and chemistry teachers will soon be offered early-career payments of up to £9,000 during their first four years of teaching. We also fund Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) courses for geography and the sciences. These are courses designed to help applicants gain the depth of subject knowledge needed to train to teach their chosen subject.

The new Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Core Content Framework, published 1 November 2019, sets out a core minimum entitlement for all trainees of what should be covered during their teacher training, irrespective of subject or phase. The government does not prescribe the curriculum of ITT or SKE courses and it remains for individual providers to design curricula appropriate for the subject, phase and age range that the trainees will be teaching. Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) will continue to be awarded at the end of ITT against the Teachers’ Standards, which includes secure knowledge of relevant subjects and curriculum areas.

We also support energy efficiency in educational facilities through our capital funding and programmes, both to reduce the carbon footprint and save schools money on energy. We have allocated almost £9 billion in condition funding since 2015 to maintain and improve school buildings. Condition funding can be invested in projects which improve energy efficiency. In addition, interest free loans for energy efficiency projects have been made available through the government backed Salix finance scheme.