Up to 70 per cent of teachers in the UK don’t feel equipped to teach kids about the climate crisis, according to a survey of more than 7,600 educators.
Campaigners blasted the curriculum for “failing” to “prepare young people for the future” and called for the issue to be covered across all subjects.
Nearly all teachers (92 per cent) are worried about climate change, according to the report from youth-led campaign group Teach the Future, but more than 40 per cent reported it rarely or never being mentioned in their schools.
“The purpose of education is to prepare young people for the future. At the moment it’s failing to do so,” said Dorothy Joddrell, a Teach the Future campaigner. “Our lives will be significantly affected by climate change.
“To ensure all students can benefit from climate education, the Government needs to make it a key part of the whole curriculum, not brush most of it aside to an optional subject.”
Only around four per cent of pupils said they knew a lot about the climate emergency, according to 2019 research, a figure Teach the Future said is unlikely to have increased.
Researchers surveyed another 503 teachers, many of whom warned current climate crisis lessons were usually limited to science and geography classes. Just five per cent of teachers said climate change played a significant role across the curriculum.
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“It is critical that climate change is a common thread through the curriculum,” said Dr Meryl Batchelder, a science teacher at Corbridge Middle School in Northumberland. “Not just in science and geography but in food science, RE, maths, English and art.
“Climate education for teachers is essential, so they have the confidence to broach the subject accurately, avoid the pitfalls and support their students sensitively.”
Teachers said they felt limited in how they could educate children about the climate crisis due to lack of resources and training. Most (65 per cent) said they could frame it in terms of animals and nature, but just a quarter felt confident explaining it in terms of careers and green jobs.
Earlier this month Meg Baker, director of education at Students Organising for Sustainability UK, told a government green jobs inquiry that significantly improved climate change teaching for young people would be key to growing the UK’s low carbon industries in the years to come.
“This is the world they are growing up in, and they will inherit the challenges that come with that world,” said Maria Hale, a geography teacher at Ivybridge Community College in Devon.
“Being educated early on the issues and the solutions gives them a better understanding of the reality of those issues, but also empowers them to get involved with current solutions.”