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Question for Department for Education

UIN 150164, tabled on 30 March 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether he has held discussions with schools on the potential merits of including in the curriculum learning on veganism, fast fashion and climate change.

Answered on

25 April 2022

Education has a critical role to play in giving all children and young people the knowledge and skills they need to create a greener, more sustainable world, and to tackle both the causes and impact of climate change.

The national curriculum framework sets out the minimum content that schools are expected to teach in each subject. Topics relating to climate change are already taught in subjects such as geography, science and citizenship. Teachers have the flexibility to cover topics in greater depth where they deem it appropriate, including topics such as veganism and fast fashion.

Pupils are taught about healthy eating through the statutory health education curriculum. They should know what constitutes a healthy diet, the characteristics of a poor diet, and risks associated with unhealthy eating, including for example, obesity and tooth decay. Schools are free to teach about the benefits of a vegan diet if they wish to do so.

Healthy eating and opportunities to develop pupils’ cooking skills are also covered in the design and technology (D&T) curriculum. Cooking and nutrition is a discrete strand of the D&T curriculum and is compulsory in maintained schools for key stages 1 to 3. The curriculum aims to teach children how to cook, with an emphasis on savoury dishes, and how to apply the principles of healthy eating and nutrition. We have also introduced a new food preparation and nutrition GCSE to provide pupils with practical cookery experience and teach them about the underlying scientific concepts of nutrition and healthy eating.

As with other aspects of the curriculum, schools have flexibility over how they deliver these subjects, and are able to go into further depth into subjects such as veganism should they wish. Schools can develop an integrated approach that is sensitive to the needs and background of their pupils.

The department has established a unit devoted to climate change and sustainability, and at COP26, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education presented a draft Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy for the Education and Children’s Services. This strategy set out key action to drive excellence in climate education including professional development for science teachers, a model Primary Science Curriculum, and free access to quality teaching resources.

While refining this strategy for publication in April 2022, the unit engaged widely with young people, expert bodies, teachers, and unions. The inclusion of topics connected to climate change and sustainability across the curriculum has been discussed with relevant parties at length. The finalised version of this strategy was published on 21 April 2022.