Initial Teacher Training and Education for Sustainable Development

Last month, it was reported that the University of Bedfordshire had opened a Forest School with the aims of embedding Forest School learning within their teacher programme. It is part of the University’s Education and Sport Faculty and is located at its Bedford campus. It will provide a resource for the University’s trainee teachers as well as opportunities to the local community for teachers to be trained in outdoor learning and for their classes to experience the long term educational benefits of outdoor play. A great new element of education for the trainee teachers to explore in my opinion!

However, this article did get me thinking ‘is sustainability a big enough element of initial teacher training?’. After all, during their PGCE is when individuals have the opportunity to learn the bulk of the theory behind teaching so presumably this would be the rightful place to embed the importance and recognition of education for encouraging sustainable development. It is also considered that ESD has considerable potential to improve the quality of teaching and learning, develop strong social skills in children and contribute to high self-esteem and confidence. So with the benefits reaching all ends of the spectrum, why is it not a bigger element of teacher training programmes?

Of course there are some exceptions, the University of Plymouth for example incorporate the Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector, embedded Education for Sustainable Development within their Professional Graduate Certificate in Education. More information on which can be found here. However, aside from the very few providers such as at Plymouth and Bedfordshire University that do include large elements of sustainability within ITT, there is evidently a gap in training. Individuals are entering teaching with little to no knowledge of how to embed ESD. And, if you have ever taught you will know that the profession leaves little time for pursuing and developing skills and interests when you have a class of thirty on your hands, therefore it really is imperative to at least plant the seeds of ESD in this initial period. This way, education can start to make changes to the attitudes of the next generation so we can begin to reverse, or at least halt the damage caused by previous generations.

Have you done a PGCE or teach on a PGCE programme? Let us know your experiences of Initial Teacher Training and ESD!

Rachel Carruthers

Newsletter Editor