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Nadhim Zahawi promises to put fight against climate change "at the heart of education"

By Rachel LawlerNadhim Zahawi COP26 education climate change

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has pledged to put the fight against climate change "at the heart" of education in England.

Climate curriculum
Speaking at COP26, Zahawi revealed plans for a new 'model science curriculum', due to be in place by 2023 as well as his vision for "all children to be taught about the importance of conserving and protecting our planet".

National Education Nature Park
The education secretary also said that children would encouraged to increase biodiversity in the space around their nursery, school or college with "small steps" such as installing bird feeders. Children will then be able to share data via a new virtual National Education Nature Park, which will allow them to track their progress against other educational settings across the country.

Climate Awards
Children will also be invited to enter a new Climate Award, recognising work to support the environment with a national awards ceremony every year. Children will be able to progress through different levels - bronze, silver and gold - in a similar way to the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Better, safer, greener
Zahawi commented: “We want to deliver a better, safer, greener world for future generations of young people and education is one of our key weapons in the fight against climate change. Empowering teachers in every school to deliver world-leading climate change education will not only raise awareness and understanding of the problem, but also equips young people with the skills and knowledge to build a sustainable future.

“The COP26 summit has further amplified the UK’s commitments to become a world leader in sustainability right across the education system by engaging young people and bringing them on our journey towards net zero and a green future. And it goes beyond the classroom – our National Education Nature Park and Climate Leaders Awards will let pupils get hands on experience of understanding, nurturing and protecting the biodiversity around them."

Energy pods
The government has also promised to test 'energy pods' to replace gas and coal boilers, supplying schools with heating and hot water without any carbon emissions as part of wider plans to reduce the country's carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 and hitting net zero by 2050.

Welcome focus
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "We firmly believe that children and young people should be at the heart of tackling climate change and improving the sustainability of our planet, and so we welcome the news that this vital issue is to receive a greater focus within the Department for Education.

"There is no doubt that the early years has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the next generation has a strong sense of social and environmental responsibility, and we know that many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are already leading the way when it comes to climate and sustainability education.

"As such, we hope that the DfE will use and build upon the excellent practice already taking place in our sector, alongside that of schools and further education providers, as it develops this important initiative."