On Wednesday 26 February, a Reception was held in the House of Commons to launch the first ever education legislation to have been drafted by pupils and students. It was hosted by Nadia Whittome MP, at 24 the youngest serving MP and was attended by 53 MPs and 47 students aged 13 to 26, including three of YPTE's Young Trustees.
Teach the Future, a campaign made up of young people aged 13 to 26 released their draft of the Climate Emergency Education Act. The campaign is jointly run by two student-led organisations, the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) and Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK). It was launched at the NUS Student Sustainability Summit in November 2019.
The students have proposed a series of amendments to the Education Act 2002, including the following:
- to ensure that young people at any level of education will receive education about the climate crisis and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero as soon as possible
- to establish a Climate Education Institute to provide scientific information on climate change, its effects and how to prevent it
- to provide training to teachers and lecturers on the science of the climate emergency and ecological crisis and on the changes needed to abate them
- to initiate a programme of outdoor education and connection to nature linked to learning about the climate emergency and ecological crisis
- to ensure that all new educational buildings must be net zero for emissions from 1 January 2022
- to retrofit all existing school buildings to become net zero by 2030.
The amendments are ambitious, with the cost of making all school buildings net zero by 2030 estimated by Teach the Future at £23.37 billion. But in a year in which the UK should be taking the lead in combatting climate change in the run up to November's vitally important COP 26 United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow, Teach the Future's ambition should be embraced as an example to the rest of the world. And as was seen just two days after the Reception, when thousands of young people took to the streets of Bristol on 28 February to express their support for teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, young people are increasingly finding ways of ensuring their voices are heard regarding the climate emergency.
Speaking before the Reception, Joe Brindle, aged 17, said: “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”.
NUS President Zamzam Ibrahim, 25, said: “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.”
Representatives from Teach the Future are meeting with the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson on 9 March to discuss their proposed amendments to the Education Act. It would be a spectacular success for young people and for the planet if he and the government demonstrate that they are willing to put their proposals into action and to pass the Climate Emergency Education Act into law.