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Should the UK make climate change lessons compulsory in schools?

Last Updated: 22 Jul, 2020

Children across the world understand the importance of climate change and the impact it will have on their futures. So in order to affect real change, should students be learning more about it in school too?

Climate Change is an extremely divisive and important issue for all people and governments across the world. We are constantly reminded that increasing temperatures, thanks to rising CO2 levels, are drastically changing the landscape we live in and devastating lives of creatures across the planet. So naturally, we should be concerned.

But with other topics dominating the headlines and occupying the time of those in charge, climate change is not being given the attention it both deserves and requires. That is why across the world, children and young people are standing up for their futures, organising peaceful protests and even learning more in class about what they can do to make a difference.

Italy leads the way…

In Italy, the government does seem to be listening. Lorenzo Fioramonti, the Italian education minister, has announced that all state-funded schools will dedicate almost one hour per week to climate change issues from the start of the next academic year. Changes will be made to mainstream subjects too, such as geography, maths and physics, rewriting the syllabuses to include the perspective of sustainable development. Mr Fioramonti has said:

“I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school.”

 What is happening here in the UK?

Here in the UK, children have already started taking action in a bid to make a difference to climate change. Back in September of this year, thousands of pupils of all ages, walked out of schools to take part in the ‘climate strike day’. Rallies took place in cities such as London, Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow. A sixteen-year-old student called Jessica emailed her school to warn that she would be joining the protests instead of being in class. Speaking at a protest in Westminster, she said:

"School is important but so is my future… If politicians were taking the appropriate action we need…then I would not have to be skipping school.”

Some independent schools across the UK are encouraging their students to get involved with action against climate change. At Hawley Hurst School in Camberley, an independent prep and senior school, they are tackling waste by growing their own vegetables which will be used in the schools catering. The school is also running sustainability classes and has started taster sessions for senior pupils to try new foods. The whole idea is for the school to waste less and in turn, better the environment.

At Kingsley School in North Devon, a co-educational independent school, they have appointed their first ever climate change teacher. Steve Whaley is one of the first wave of teachers in the UK to become a United Nations-accredited climate change teacher and will be delivering lessons on the subject through geography lessons and extracurricular activities.

Italy leads the way…

The United Nations-accredited programme was launched earlier this year and is free for all school teachers. Once accredited they are able to deliver information about climate change and the best practices for mitigation. Such lessons will undoubtedly empower young people to rise-up and join the fight against climate change. Mr Whaley said:

"For the next century to be a success for humankind, environmental sustainability needs to be at the core of everything we do.”

Highgate School has also recently taken action to protest against air pollution in the school area in London. The students stood on the roads and spoke with car users who stopped and idled when dropping off or collecting children. In addition, earlier in May 2019, Highgate pupils and staff participated in the ‘School Strike 4 Climate’ in Parliament Square in May.

So should it become compulsory?

So, should the UK follow Italy’s example and make it compulsory for all students at school to learn about climate change and what they can do to help? Many think so. Prince Charles himself recently expressed his concerns whilst addressing an audience at Lincoln University in New Zealand. He said humans have been on a "dizzying spending spree for centuries” with the planet's resources and we are facing a “climate and biodiversity emergency”.

He admitted he worries for the futures of his grandchildren and that he has an “overwhelming desire” to protect them. With notable figures, such as The Prince of Wales, David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, expressing their concerns, perhaps politicians in the UK will soon see the importance of what our planet faces in the coming years and will encourage pupils across the country to join the conversation in classrooms on a regular basis.

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