More than 55,000 sign petition launched by Oxford students, 15, for more thorough teaching on climate change at school

Katy Clifton

Four 15-year-old students have launched a petition which hopes to make more thorough teaching about climate change a compulsory part of school education.

The students, from Chesney School, in Oxford, are hoping to make climate change a “core part of the compulsory curriculum” to increase the next generation’s understanding of the global issue.

Set up by school girls Izzy Lewis, Kamila Chamcham, Rasha Alsouleman and Lucy Gibbons, the petition also calls for schools to be run more sustainably and for this to be inspected.

Last month, the girls were among thousands of students to walk out of UK schools as part of a global youth action over climate change, which demanded the Government declare a climate emergency.

Thousands of students took part in a protest against climate change last month (Reuters)

Their petition was launched shortly after the walkout and now has more than 55,000 signatures. It says that “climate change is the biggest issue of our time” and say it “must be a part of our education if our generation is to understand it and combat its effect”.

Although they acknowledge it is currently in the curriculum, they claim that they have “barely learned about the climate crisis, even though it’s supposed to be part of geography and science”.

The petition says: “On Friday February 15 we walked out of school along with thousands of students throughout the UK to protest against the government's lack of action in tackling climate change.

“We don’t want to be left with flooding, wars, famine and climate breakdown just because our governments value economic growth over the wellbeing of our planet.

“We’ve barely learned about the climate crisis at school. If young people like us are going to have any kind of future, the climate emergency must be a central, core part of our compulsory curriculum.

"We strongly value our education, and that’s why we desperately need you to help us make a change in the way things are run.”

Thousands of people have voiced their support for the girls’ petition, with many praising them for talking about the issue and one person writing: “Kids need to understand the state of our world.”

“It demands to have prominence in the curriculum so that the young people whose future it puts in jeopardy are fully informed about it and can take action,” another person wrote.

Another said: “We all need to be engaged in the planet extinction concerns especially those who are youngest. But importantly we across generations need to work together and inspire to keep this a living planet for generations.”

However, in response to the recent school walkouts over climate change, Steve Brace, head of education and outdoor learning with the Royal Geographical Society, said that the statutory geography national curriculum already requires pupils to “study how the climate has changed from ice age to present”.

Young climate change protesters in London (Reuters)

In an open letter to the Guardian, he added: “Pupils should also understand how human and physical processes interact to influence and change landscapes, environments and the climate; and how human activity relies on the effective functioning of natural systems.”

Responding to the petition to Education Secretary Damien Hinds, a Government spokesman said climate change is “already part of the national curriculum in both geography and science to ensure young people are equipped with knowledge about this important issue.”

He added: “This government is already a world-leader when it comes to tackling climate change.

“We are the first country to introduce long-term legally binding climate targets and cut emissions by more than 40% since 1990 while growing our economy.

“We’re investing over £2.5 billion to support low carbon innovation, taking action on our ambitious objectives in the 25 Year Environment Plan and have asked independent climate experts for advice on a net zero emissions target.”

View the petition here