Announcing a range of measures in a speech at CoP26 today, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi set out his vision for all children to be taught about the importance of conserving and protecting our planet and confirmed plans to test Energy Pods in schools for zero carbon heating and hot water.
Teachers will be supported to deliver climate change education through a model science curriculum, which will be in place by 2023, to teach children about nature and their impact on the world around them.
A new Climate Award to recognise children and young people’s work to improve their environment was also launched. Pupils and students will be able to progress through different levels of the award, ‘bronze’, ‘silver’ and ‘gold’, in a similar way to the Duke of Edinburgh Awards., with a prestigious national awards ceremony held every year.
Zero Carbon heating
The Education Secretary also confirmed plans to test innovative new Energy Pods that can replace gas and coal boilers and supply all a school’s heating and hot water without any carbon emissions. These are being tested first in some schools and then could be rolled out to other public sector buildings.
Schools and universities represent 36% of total UK public sector building emissions. Costs are also significant; schools alone spend around £630m per annum on energy.
‘Energy Pods’ are a low to zero carbon plug and play technological solution which provide heating and hot water to existing school settings via solar panels and technology to maximise their output.
The innovation will first be tested in some schools and colleges and if successful could be extended across the school estate and into more public sector buildings.
Biodiversity & sustainability and climate change strategy
Children and young people will also be encouraged to get involved in the natural world by increasing biodiversity in the grounds of their nursery, school or college. Combined, the grounds of schools, colleges, nurseries and universities in England take up an area over twice the size of Birmingham, so improving their biodiversity could have a significant impact on the environment.
In addition, from December 2021, all Further Education (FE) teachers trained via an apprenticeship will be required to integrate sustainability into their teaching, through modelling sustainable practices and promoting sustainable development principles in relation to their subject specialism.
These measures, brought together in a draft sustainability and climate change strategy, will be built on over the next 6 months in collaboration with young people, educators, sustainability experts and environmentalists before the final publication of the strategy in April 2022.
UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini said, “For the future of our planet, we need to learn for our planet. We welcome the United Kingdom’s commitment to climate education though its efforts to place sustainability at the heart of their education system.
“New UNESCO data found only half of national educational frameworks have a reference to climate change in them so we are partnering with the Department for Education for today’s event at COP26 where global education leaders will be able to make pledges that set out how they will tackle climate change through education in their countries.”