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Pupils will be recognised for climate action through a new Duke of Edinburgh-style award scheme.
Teachers will be supported to teach children about nature and their impact on the world around them through a “model science curriculum” which will be in place by 2023, the Department for Education (DfE) said.
Climate change is already taught in science and geography lessons in England as part of the curriculum.
Young people will also be able to undertake a Climate Leaders Award to celebrate and recognise their work in protecting the environment, with a national awards ceremony held every year.
Students can progress through different levels of the award – such as bronze, silver and gold – in a similar way to the Duke of Edinburgh award, which provides access to volunteering and extracurricular learning.
Our National Education Nature Park and Climate Leaders Awards will let pupils get hands-on experience of understanding, nurturing and protecting the biodiversity around them
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi
The Education Secretary will also confirm plans to pilot “energy pods” that can replace gas and coal boilers, and supply a school’s heating and hot water without any carbon emissions.
These are being tested first in some schools and, if successful, they could be rolled out across the school estate and into more public-sector buildings.
Schools, colleges and nurseries are also being encouraged to improve the biodiversity of their grounds.
Meanwhile, from next month, all further education (FE) teachers trained via an apprenticeship will be required to integrate sustainability into their teaching.
The measures, brought together in a draft sustainability and climate change strategy, will be built on over the next six months in collaboration with young people, educators, sustainability experts and environmentalists before the final publication of the strategy in April 2022.
Mr Zahawi said: “We want to deliver a better, safer, greener world for future generations of young people and education is one of our key weapons in the fight against climate change.
“Empowering teachers in every school to deliver world-leading climate change education will not only raise awareness and understanding of the problem, but also equips young people with the skills and knowledge to build a sustainable future.
“The Cop26 summit has further amplified the UK’s commitments to become a world leader in sustainability right across the education system by engaging young people and bringing them on our journey towards net zero and a green future.
“It goes beyond the classroom – our National Education Nature Park and Climate Leaders Awards will let pupils get hands-on experience of understanding, nurturing and protecting the biodiversity around them.”
It’s vital that any work on a new model curriculum is developed in close consultation with the profession and builds on the excellent work already taking place
James Bowen, director of policy for NAHT
The Education Secretary will host a panel session on Friday at Cop26 with education ministers from around the world.
James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “There is a huge amount of good work already taking place in schools to reduce their carbon footprint and we know this generation of pupils are passionate about bringing about meaningful change.
“A coherent national strategy is essential if we are to see real impact. The Government must be truly ambitious, not just looking to new buildings, but also at how the existing school estate can be made as environmentally-friendly as possible.
“Many schools are already actively teaching pupils about the importance of conserving and protecting our planet through their existing curriculum.
“It’s vital that any work on a new model curriculum is developed in close consultation with the profession and builds on the excellent work already taking place.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Schools and colleges already work very hard on tackling climate change and looking after the environment through practical measures, activities and education which reflect the depth of feeling among their pupils on this crucial topic.
“It is very clear that children and young people rightly want to see far more concerted action from policy-makers to address the climate emergency. They are fed up with platitudes and will be hoping that Cop26 delivers real progress.”