Let’s Go Zero 2030 and A New Natural History GCSE: Initiatives for Young People Across the UK May Portend a Generation Empowered to Tackle All Aspects of The Climate Crisis

Progress in the green curriculum could see the creation of a generation ready to solve the climate crisis, but with national machines moving slowly, is a personal focus on development the answer?
Let’s Go Zero 2030 and A New Natural History GCSE: Initiatives for Young People Across the UK May Portend a Generation Empowered to Tackle All Aspects of The Climate Crisis
Like

Let’s Go Zero 2030 lets schools school the DfE on sustainability strategy

Let’s Go Zero 2030 (LGZ 2030) is a campaign representing 1,471 schools, 104,000 teachers and 620,000 students, their insights into sustainability in schooling were welcomed by the Department for Education (DfE) as a valuable source of evidence for the April 2022 publication Sustainability and climate change: a strategy for the education and children’s services systems.[i] LGZ 2030 listed their 7 priorities for creating zero carbon schools.

Source: Let’s Go Zero 2030

At the heart of LGZ 2030s strategy is the mantra to share, connect and act.[ii] To act, LGZ encourages the following:

  • Reduce their carbon footprint and help them on their journey to zero
  • Identify actions across the school’s campus, curriculum, community and culture, showing a wide range of options to reduce their environmental impact
  • Help everyone in the school community understand the issues surrounding the climate crisis and what they can do to take action
  • Help students and staff learn and build skills for the future whilst supporting personal wellbeing and mental health through taking action to protect our planet.

In tackling the first two points, LGZ 2030 partnered with Transform Our World to design a portal that allows schools to design a tailored solution to climate action and measure the impact of its implementation.[iii] Transform Our World’s climate action planner can be found here.[iv]

The second half of the action goals from LGZ 2030 focus more on developing skills and understanding within school communities. This approach has been supported by the recent introduction of a new natural history GCSE set to launch in 2025.[v]

Addressing the “gap in content” in current natural history education

Pressure to tackle what naturalist Mary Colwell described as a “need” for young people to “create a world we can all live in” further grew with compelling calls from the Teach the Future campaign.[vi]  Teach the Future expressively captured the essence and emotion of the issue in their consultation with OCR.

“It's not good enough that sustainability is restricted to a few subjects and that most of our teachers and lecturers don’t know enough about it. Our education system must teach the truth and prepare us for the future, because we are the future.”[vii]

This call to action came in 2020; OCR attributed the growing desire for action to a period of “extraordinary change” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.[viii] This led to a consultation led by OCR, which was then greenlit by the DfE, who then themselves led a consultation. As such, it took two years to develop the natural history GCSE announced in April 2022, and a further three years will pass before its availability to students in 2025.

Source: Natural History Museum

Upon its announcement, Nadim Zahawi, former secretary of state for education, highlighted a desire to support young people in what he outlined was an unsurprising desire in young people for environmental action.[ix]  

“It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that young people are already very committed to a more sustainable planet. We should be proud of this, and I want to do everything I can to encourage this passion so they can be agents of change in protecting our planet.”

Is it moving fast enough?

Zero Carbon Academy has before highlighted the overwhelming eco-awareness of generation-Z, discussing how this affects their entry into the workplace. As such, the desire of young people to drive action on the climate crisis is well understood. By extension, and in line with an upwards trend in environmentalism with each new generation, it is not unfounded to expect an even greater desire from the generation currently in primary and secondary education across the UK.

This raises an issue for the slow-turning wheels that have created what is an undeniably positive initiative in the natural history GCSE. Pressure came from entities external to the government, and consultations from OCR and Cambridge University Press & Assessment established with aplomb, and also found overwhelming support for such a programme across educational communities. The government, specifically the DfE, then took onboard this pressure but, in the opinion of some commentators, is unable to move fast enough to address the zeitgeist of schools across the UK.

LGZ 2030 welcomed many aspects of the DfE approach to sustainability but said there was a problematic gap in the strategy.

“Providing schools with the means to decarbonise quickly was glaringly absent in the strategy. The government must do better – far, far quicker.”

Criticism of a lethargic pace of progress demonstrates how private initiatives such as LGZ 2030 can support the UK in its pursuit of net zero, especially within the transitional period we find ourselves. Whilst it may take time for students to begin to receive a certificate for their understanding of the natural world and its history, empowerment can begin today, and it can begin with anyone. Taking the first step towards being empowered and able to tackle the climate crisis could begin as humbly as this, by simply reading and learning something new about the challenges we all face. With this new information, you can begin a conversation within your organisation and perhaps start to see where the opportunities for growth are.

Do you know enough? Do you have the right tools? Nobody’s answer will be the same, but each honest answer is as valuable as the next. When you know what you need, you know who can help. Here at Zero Carbon Academy, we’re committed to connecting you to the right people across our community, excited to provide opportunities to learn from leading tutors and ready to support you with bespoke insights through our toolkits and whitepapers. Join the conversation today.

References

[i] LGZ 2030- Let’s Go Zero calls for government action on zero carbon schools

[ii] LGZ 2030- School Toolbox

[iii] LGZ 2030- ACT- Take action to reduce your school's carbon impact now and start seeing and measuring the benefits.

[iv] Transform Our World- Climate action planner

[v] NHM- New natural history GCSE to focus on saving the planet

[vi] OCR- Green light for GCSE in Natural History

[vii] OCR- Position statement: greening the curriculum

[viii] Ibid

[ix] Ibid

Please sign in or register for FREE

If you are a registered user on Zero Carbon Academy, please sign in