Campaign to keep Sustainability in the Curriculum

This is SEEd’s first ever campaign and we’re aiming high!

But rightly so, because here at SEEd, we believe that developing the knowledge, skills, and competencies to allow all young people to make sustainable and informed choices as well as feeling able to develop sustainable ways of living and working is essential.

ESD includes learning environmental, but also economic, social and cultural issues meaning that sustainability skills and knowledge are vital in all aspects of life. This is why ESD should be part of the education of every child. In Wales and Scotland, the law already provides for this, however in England this is not the case. Climate change is only a small aspect of sustainability and therefore ESD requires specific legal acknowledgement. As part of SEEd’s first ever campaign, we want to make this happen!

What we have done so far…

On the 4th April, using, we launched a petition keeping sustainability in the National Curriculum. It received an astounding 2000 signatures in the first month with the majority wanting to stay in touch with SEEd!

We also worked with EcoSchools (Keep Britain Tidy) to send the same message in a letter signed by 31 CEOs of organisations. The reply was not encouraging and sustainability was dropped as an aim of the National Curriculum.

The same cannot be said of Climate Change – which received a rare press release saying it was in the curriculum and there were many ways to link it even in the younger years. This is what we said:

The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP: Keep Sustainability in the National Curriculum Objectives,
I am writing to urge you to keep sustainability in the National Curriculum objectives. 
In the National Curriculum for 2000 the following aim and objective was added for the first time:
Pupils should develop awareness and understanding of, and respect for, the environments in which they live, and secure their commitment to sustainable development at a personal, national and global level. [Read more]

We have been encouraged to continue working on this agenda though from Joan Walley, Chair of the Parliamentary Environment Audit Committee. Here is an excerpt of her letter:

To the Signatories of the ‘Keep Sustainability in the National Curriculum Objectives’ Petition,
Thank you for expressing your support for the inclusion of sustainable development in the national curriculum. I agree with you about the importance of sustainable development and I thought you might be interested to know that the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Select Committee, which I Chair, has recently published a report which touches on many of these issues. [Read more]


The key Points in the report are that the UK government signed up to the following commitment in Rio+20:

We recognise that the younger generations are the custodians of the future, ….We therefore resolve to improve the capacity of our education systems to prepare people to pursue sustainable development, including through enhanced teacher training, the development of curricula around sustainability, the development of training programmes… [95]

However, the government feels that:

The Government is fully committed to sustainable development and the importance of preparing young people for the future. Our approach to reform is based on the belief that schools perform better when they take responsibility for their own improvement. We want schools to make their own judgments on how sustainable development should be reflected in their ethos, day to day operations and through education for sustainable development. Those judgments should be based on sound knowledge and local needs… [100]

A Government submission to an EAUC education conference in November 2012.

The EAC made the following recommendation to DfE:

The Government should remind schools of the scope for addressing sustainable development in their learning plans and encourage them to set themselves up as ‘sustainable schools’ to promote such learning through the practical activities that that entails.

It is now our aim to change the Education Act so that the inclusion of ESD is no longer dependant on the resources of individual schools.

As part of our campaign we urge you to write a letter and arrange to speak to your local MP about the issue. Here is a sample letter and some guidelines on how to approach your MP.

Climate change is only a small aspect of sustainability and therefore it requires a specific legal acknowledgement. Securing a place of sustainability and environmental education in the national curriculum would be achieved via amendment of the Education Act.

Section78 of the Education Act (2002) will be amended by inserting the following after subsection (1) (b): (c) instils and ethos and ability to care for oneself, others and the natural environment, now and in the future.