Big Issue Vendor

‘Put climate change on our curriculum’: The outraged teens confronting Ofsted

The 15-year-olds from Oxford have amassed 70,000 signatures on a petition demanding schools teach pupils about the perils of climate change

We are four 15-year-old school students who are deeply concerned about the damage we’re doing to our planet and how it will affect our futures.

Climate change is the biggest issue of our time, and it must be a part of our education if our generation is to understand it and help us to combat its effects. That’s why we want climate change to be made a core part of the national curriculum.

We’ve barely learned about the climate crisis at school, even though it’s supposed to be part of geography and science. Here is what is and isn’t taught in school at the moment:

There is no direct reference to ‘climate change’ or species extinction in the primary school curriculum. The secondary school curriculum has sparse references, nothing about species loss or ecological breakdown; evidence for anthropogenic effects is mentioned as containing ‘uncertainties’ – the only use of this word in reference to evidence in entire science curriculum. So in practice that means:

  • Geography Key Stage 3 has one module, six to 12 lessons, and one module in Key Stage 4, if students choose GCSE geography
  • Science may cover climate change in four lessons – potentially fewer
  • There is no reference anywhere in the curriculum to current mass extinction of species, rapid warming in the last 10 years, predicted consequences of unchecked warming or the reasons why mitigation has failed so far

We want to be fully equipped for the ensuing climate crisis,

What we want is to give our generation and those that follow the knowledge needed to fully understand what is going to happen – and what is happening – because of climate change. We want to be fully equipped for the ensuing climate crisis and we want that to be understood by the government and for them to make it a priority. It’s not OK for schools to be brushing aside climate change and not giving us the knowledge we need.

We also demand that Ofsted adds sustainability to its criteria that schools have to fulfil. Ofsted’s motto is ‘Raising Standards, Improving Lives’. Maintaining global sustainability is a basic requirement that we see as absolutely necessary for schools to implement, and it requires little effort to make a huge difference in how our country decides to educate our generation and many to come.

For example, the amount of paper wasted on a day-to-day basis is completely atrocious. We stick three to five sheets into books most lessons and these sheets are just information that is relatively easy for us to copy down as notes. It’s wasteful and unnecessary! If our schools act as role models to the younger generations we will grow up with the understanding that there are ways in which to limit the wasteful nature of society.

We strongly value Ofsted and what it does for our nation’s education, but this alarming flaw in the whole education system must be fixed.

In response to the pupils’ concerns, Ofsted told The Big Issue:“Ofsted can only look at so much during an inspection, so we focus on the issues that research shows have the greatest impact on pupils’ education. Sustainability is a matter for individual schools themselves.”

You can sign the petition here.