Climate change teaching should be compulsory, says ex-schools minister

Lord Knight says children must be taught climate change in school.
Lord Knight says children must be taught climate change in school.

'There's a problem with our curriculum that needs fixing if we're to fix the planet.'

Published

Climate change and “sustainable citizenship” should be part of the national curriculum taught in schools in England, ministers have been told.

Existing citizenship education would be amended to include the environmental issues under the proposals rather than creating a new subject, Labour former schools minister Lord Knight of Weymouth explained.

Children with placards during a climate change protest on Parliament Square in Westminster.
Children with placards during a climate change protest on Parliament Square in Westminster.

He said good schools already deal with such topics, adding his proposed legislation “set an ambition for all to do the same”.

Moving his Education (Environment and Sustainable Citizenship) Bill, Lord Knight told peers: “I just think this is a no-brainer.

“For the DfE (Department for Education) it’s an easy win and I hope you’ll agree.”

Lord Knight said a majority of teachers agree that climate change education should be “compulsory in schools” and believe “individual action on climate and sustainability” should also be taught.

He added young people also support the inclusion of the topics on the curriculum.

Lord Knight said: “There’s a problem with our curriculum that needs fixing if we’re to fix the planet.”

On what his Bill seeks to do, Lord Knight explained: “It adds to the general requirements of a broad and balanced curriculum so that it instils an ethos and ability to care for one’s self, others and the natural environment for present and future generations.

“Secondly, it makes provision for sustainable citizenship education for the secondary curriculum and for the secretaries of states to provide the necessary guidance.

“And thirdly, it updates the definition of the citizenship subject in key stages one to four to include programmes of study that encourage learning to protect and restore the natural environment for present and future generations including, but not limited to, climate change considerations.”