First bill drafted by children on climate education
Children should learn about climate change in greater depth and across all subjects, experts and students themselves have told BBC News.
Current teaching leaves children ill-prepared to live in a warming world, they warn.
Extreme heat and wildfires in the UK this week could be normal for decades to come, scientists say.
Children are currently studying climate change in depth in GCSE Geography and Science.
But teenage activists say that because climate change affects all parts of our lives, it should be taught in all subjects.
Activist Scarlett Westbrook, 18, wants significant changes to the program. She drafted the first student-drafted bill for Parliament to amend the Education Act.
Children deserve to be fully prepared for life and work on a heating planet, she told BBC News from Birmingham.
“Climate change isn’t just about natural history. It’s about people, economics, politics, history and the arts – and we need to learn that too,” she says.
Teenagers at a school in Liverpool have told BBC News they feel unprepared.
“There’s not enough information about it, we’re not being told enough or taught enough. We’re going there blind,” says Harry at St Hilda’s School.
Geography teacher Jordan Davies says his GCSE courses teach climate change in great depth, but his department goes even further to ensure children understand the subject.
A survey by campaign group Teach the Future found that 51% of teachers think their subject does not teach climate change in a meaningful or relevant enough way.
“The education system should center the climate crisis on every subject,” suggests Scarlett, who has been campaigning for change since she was 13. This would include vocational subjects, such as engineering.
By doing so, “the generation of tomorrow will be prepared to deal with the effects of climate change and will not be confused,” suggests Scarlett.
At St Hilda’s School, students said learning about climate change in subjects such as business studies and design technology would prepare them for sustainable jobs in these sectors.
Experts say improving climate education would also help the UK tackle and adapt to global warming.
Today’s teenagers are candidates for the 480,000 green jobss that the government has pledged to create by 2030. This includes jobs like solar panel engineer or sustainability manager in a company.
Experts say expanding the provision of climate change education would help train children in the required skills.
What children are learning now
The cause of climate change – the additional greenhouse gases produced by human activity – is first taught in science classes in grades 7-9.
Potential impacts are taught at GCSE Geography.
Only students who choose to take the GCSE Geography can find out more about how we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, how climate change affects weather events and how we respond.
In 2019, 43% of 16-year-old pupils took their GCSE Geography, according to the regulations of the Board of Qualifications and Examinations.
Academies and free schools are not required to follow the national curriculum and would therefore decide themselves to teach more or less on the subject.
The government has promised to provide ‘world-leading climate change education’ by 2023. In April it introduced a natural history GCSE which will teach environmental issues.
But critics point out that it is an optional subject and will compete with other GCSEs when children decide which subjects to study.
The Department for Education told BBC News that climate change topics were already in the curriculum for primary and secondary schools.
Labor MP Nadia Whittome worked with campaigner Scarlett on the private member’s bill to change the Education Act to ‘reflect the climate emergency’. It would require primary and secondary schools to teach about climate change in all subjects, including vocational courses that prepare students for specific jobs such as business or social services.
Aged 25, Ms Whittome is the youngest MP and says it gives her a unique perspective in Parliament.
“Not so long ago I was in school myself, and I remember not learning that. I think it’s quite surprising for older MPs,” he said. -she explains.
Experts also say teaching about climate change in more subjects will boost young people’s confidence in solving the problem and reduce rising levels of climate anxiety.
A survey last year revealed that 60% of young students in ten countries feel extremely or very worried about climate change.