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Young people's views on the progress of the Department for Education Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy

December 20, 2023
Jodie Bailey-Ho and Will Wale

We recently started our new roles as Youth Focal Points for Sustainability and Climate Change with the Department for Education and are working hard to represent young people, ensuring they know about the strategy and can share their views. We are particularly keen to make the role our own and are passionate about reaching the most underrepresented communities and engaging with students who are not actively involved with sustainability - listening to these groups to understand how they can best be supported in developing an understanding of sustainability and climate change.

So far, we have:

  • Engaged with key stakeholders through the Sustainability and Climate Change Unit User group and attending the International Green Skills Conference;
  • Contributed to the British Council, and other key UK actors, work on the ACE agenda at COP28; and
  • Advised on the development and implementation of the new Natural History GCSE and provided input on OCR’s Strategic Advisory Board.
Will on a panel discussing green skills at the UK Pavilion at COP28

Through this engagement, we have generally found that young people have a very limited understanding of the strategy and the corresponding work, if they know about it at all. Although there is a lack of awareness about the strategy, there doesn’t seem to be alack of want for many of its aims, with 90% of students being very or fairly concerned about climate change and 71% interested in learning more about the environment at school. However, 61% of teachers say the current education system is not successfully developing tolerant, sustainably-minded global citizens of the future.

Since its launch, the strategy has made progress in key areas, with the National Education Nature Parks Scheme already supporting considerable progress in engagement with nature in education settings. Since the roll out of the scheme, we have observed increased engagement with nature amongst young people and schools that have benefited from the scheme.

Through continuing ambition and engagement with young people and stakeholders, we hope to be able to support the Department in further developing the strategy to improve sustainability and climate education across the UK. In order for the Department to deliver its strategy, we need young people across the education system to understand what is being implemented and the reasoning behind this. 

Jodie speaks on young people's views on the Strategy at the International Green Skills Conference

However, we consistently find that young people don’t understand what the strategy is and the impact it is designed to have, and while we are working to make the strategy more accessible, it is crucial that further work is done to ensure young people are equipped with the information they need to understand what the Department is trying to achieve. Young people often feel disheartened by a lack of sustainability and climate action from government, and so ensuring recognition of this work can also help empower young people to take further action outside of their educational settings.

It is really positive to see the Department make progress on Green Skills and deliver the International Green Skills Conference, but it is crucial that more work is done on ensuring that young people actually understand what Green Skills are, and are given the opportunities to develop these skills across every element of their learning. 

Through continuing to implement the strategy and building on the improvements already made, the Department can work to deliver quality sustainability and climate education that reaches every single young person in the UK, integrated across learning. We have been heartened by the meaningful engagement and commitment from ministers and civil servants with us so far, and look forward to continuing our work with the Department. 


Will Wale and Jodie Bailey-Ho

Department for Education Youth Focal Points for Sustainability and Climate Change