Sustainability strategy a ‘good foundation’ says ETF

The Department for Education’s (DfE’s) ‘Sustainability and climate change strategy’ provides a good foundation to build upon as the education sector increasingly recognises its part in achieving society’s sustainability and social justice needs, according to the Education and Training Foundation (ETF).

The strategy recognises the important part education has to play in contributing to climate action and achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the work already being undertaken by Further Education providers to embed sustainability in courses, decarbonise their estates and drive whole-setting approaches.

It also incorporates recommendations from ETF-led work that seek to place ESD at the heart of teachers’ training, with the development of an occupational standard for further education teaching, which within its commitments explicitly requires all new teachers to integrate sustainability into their teaching through modelling sustainable practices and promoting sustainable development principles in relation to their subject specialism.

The strategy also chimes with elements of the ETF’s vision for education for sustainable development, including in its views that sustainability and climate change will touch every career, that all learners must learn about sustainability, and that retraining and upskilling should be available to help people of all ages into green careers.

But the ETF’s welcome is tempered by an acknowledgement that there is more work to do. That must include curriculum reform to ensure that all learners receive high-quality sustainability education; qualifications were cited by educators as the biggest barrier to bringing ESD into their work in the ETF’s Experiences of ESD in the FE Sector research. The development of tangible targets and impact measurements that embrace the social justice and inclusion elements of sustainability, and access for all to relevant training and upskilling, are also needed, the ETF believes.

Charlotte Bonner, the ETF’s National Head of Education for Sustainable Development, said:

“This strategy recognises the vital role the education sector has to play in tackling climate change and developing a more sustainable and just world for both current and future generations. It also underlines the importance of world class teaching to ensure learners get the best possible climate education.

“That it exists at all is a big step forward. The fact that is has been produced collaboratively with a wide group of stakeholders – including the ETF – and in a way that recognises and seeks to build on work that is already happening, makes it particularly welcome.

“As we now look at the strategy’s delivery, we must ramp up our ambitions for this work even further, understanding baselines and developing targets that allow us to measure the impact of our activity, recognising and engaging the wide group of stakeholders that must be involved, and extending its reach.”

The DfE strategy, which was published in April 2022, is available on the Gov.uk website.

Further information about the ETF’s work on education for sustainable development, including its research and resources for professionals, are available on the dedicated ESD page on the ETF website.

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