Main image: Mark Edwards / Hard Rain Project
On Wednesday 26 February 2020, 50 students will enter parliament on a mission to engage MPs and Peers with the need to repurpose the education system around the climate emergency and ecological crisis.
The group comprises 13- to 26-year-olds, with most under 18. They created the Teach the Future campaign three months ago because they were unhappy about the lack of climate change focused education they’d received in school, college and university.
Their parliamentary reception is being hosted by 24-year-old Nadia Whittome, the youngest MP in parliament, with speakers including school pupil Scarlett Westbrook (15), National Union of Students (NUS) president Zamzam Ibrahim (25), Kevin Courtney, general-secretary of the National Education Union, historian and vice-chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon and Nigel Topping, High Level Climate Action Champion for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) climate talks, taking place in November in Glasgow.
The students have invited all English MPs to attend the reception and hear about their experience of climate education.
At the event the students will unveil their draft English Climate Emergency Education Bill, the first ever education legislation to be written by pupils and students.
Should the bill become legislation, it would obligate English education providers across primary, secondary and tertiary to teach the climate emergency and ecological crisis.
‘We are all aged 13-26 and in full-time education, but have barely been taught anything about the climate emergency and ecological crisis. So much of what we are taught about seems irrelevant given the way the world is going. We just want to be taught the truth and supported to make a difference.’
It also would provide new funding for the upskilling of existing teachers and lecturers, development of teaching resources and funding for youth-led climate and environmental social action in every school, college and university.
The bill would additionally require all new state-funded educational buildings to be net-zero carbon from 2022, and that all existing state-funded educational buildings are retrofitted to net-zero by 2030 as a national infrastructure priority.
‘In the 1950s the US Government passed their Defence Education Act, which was a massive investment in teaching STEM across all forms of education. They did that so they could win the space race, and they did. We now need a similar massive investment in our education system, so we can combat the climate emergency.’
The students are also calling on the Secretary of State for Education to commission an independent review of how the education system is preparing young people for the climate emergency and ecological crisis and requesting that he amends the teacher training standards so that all new teachers are trained on the climate emergency.
‘COP26 is coming and we hope to persuade our Government that education should be a main theme at the talks. We have seen Italy, Russia and New Zealand make announcements about climate education. We hope our government will want to work with us to develop a Climate Emergency Education Plan in the run-up to COP, our bill is the first step to making this happen.’