Government should not omit societal impacts of climate change from National Curriculum

The Government should reverse its proposal to remove the teaching of the potential impacts of climate change on society from the National Curriculum for schools in England in order to ensure that pupils are provided with the essential knowledge, skills and understanding that they need to be educated citizens, according to a report published today (22 April 2013) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London.

In a report submitted to a consultation by the Department for Education, Naomi Hicks, Bob Ward and Sarah Lester point out that the only explicit reference to climate change in the whole of the new Framework for the National Curriculum for England occurs in the subject content for Chemistry at Key Stage 3, for ages 11 to 14, which specifies that pupils should be taught “the production of carbon dioxide by human activity and the impact on climate”. The subject content for Geography indicates that pupils should be taught to understand processes relating to weather and climate, but makes no explicit reference to climate change.

The report warns that the framework “does not explicitly include an introduction to key knowledge about the potential impacts of unmanaged climate change, as well as the options for mitigation (for instance through reducing greenhouse gas emissions), even though the ‘efficacy of recycling’ is included in Chemistry”.

It adds: “These omissions would undermine the core knowledge base of pupils who will experience first-hand those impacts of climate change that are now unavoidable and who will be faced in their lifetimes with important decisions and choices about how to manage and respond to climate change risks”.

The report notes that the new Framework for the National Curriculum would alter the teaching of Geography by omitting any explicit reference to climate change, and highlights the fact that the draft programme of study for Science at Key Stage 4, for ages 14 to 16, also excludes any mention of climate change.

The report states: “It may be that the impacts and management of climate change risks are best taught as part of Geography, and should therefore be included within its subject content rather than within Science. However, these are essential issues and cannot be allocated to, for instance, Geography in Key Stage 4, which would not be compulsory, and would result in the majority of pupils being deprived of the necessary learning opportunities.”

“If the teaching of climate change is spread between more than one subject, for instance Science and Geography, it is important that the programmes of study are properly integrated. Pupils are likely to gain a complete understanding if issues such as climate change are taught within the context of the processes that operate within the Earth system, rather than as an isolated topic.”

The report states: “Overall, the proposed programmes of study in the new Framework are insufficiently ambitious in relation to the teaching of climate change and do not recognise the value of teaching both the basic science of climate change and the associated issues of impacts, mitigation and adaptation.”

Notes for Editors

  1. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment and the Global Green Growth Institute.
  2. The Grantham Institute for Climate Change was established by Imperial College London in February 2007. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.
  3. The consultation about the proposed new Framework for the National Curriculum in England was launched by the Department for Education in February and closed on 16 April. The Government intends to publish the final version of the framework in autumn 2013, and will take effect from September 2014.