Students will be rewarded for their climate action with a new Duke of Edinburgh-style awards program.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi will present a series of measures designed to put climate change at the heart of education in a speech at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.
Teachers will be supported to teach children about nature and its impact on the world around them through a “model science program” to be in place by 2023, the Ministry of Education (DfE) said.
Climate change is already taught in science and geography courses in England as part of the study program.
Young people will also be able to undertake a Climate Leaders Award to celebrate and recognize their work in protecting the environment, with a national awards ceremony each year.
Students can advance through different award levels – such as Bronze, Silver, and Gold – similar to the Duke of Edinburgh Award, which provides access to volunteering and extracurricular learning.
The Education Secretary will also confirm plans to pilot “energy pods” that can replace gas and coal-fired boilers, and provide heat and hot water to a school without any carbon emissions.
These are being tested first in some schools and, if successful, they could be rolled out across the school grounds and in more public sector buildings.
Schools, colleges and nurseries are also encouraged to improve the biodiversity of their land.
In the meantime, starting next month, all continuing education (CE) teachers trained through apprenticeship will be required to integrate sustainability into their teaching.
The measures, grouped together in a draft sustainable development and climate change strategy, will be developed over the next six months in collaboration with young people, educators, sustainability experts and environmentalists before the final publication of the strategy in April 2022.
Mr Zahawi said: “We want to provide a better, safer and 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 top-notch climate change education will not only raise awareness and understanding of the problem, but also equip young people with the skills and knowledge to build a sustainable future.
“The Cop26 summit further amplified the UK’s commitments to become a global leader in sustainability across the education system by engaging young people and supporting them on our journey to net zero and a green future.
“It goes beyond the classroom – our National Education Nature Park and Climate Leaders Awards will allow students to gain hands-on experience in understanding, caring for and protecting the biodiversity around them.”
The Education Secretary will organize a roundtable on Friday at Cop26 with education ministers from around the world.
James Bowen, Policy Director of the Heads Union NAHT, said: “There is already a tremendous amount of good work going on in schools to reduce their carbon footprint and we know this generation of students are passionate about it. by making a significant change.
“A coherent national strategy is essential if we are to see real impact. The government needs to be really ambitious, not only in finding new buildings, but also in how the existing school park can be made as environmentally friendly as possible.
“Many schools are already actively teaching students the importance of conserving and protecting our planet through their existing curriculum.
“It is essential that any work on a new model curriculum is developed in close consultation with the profession and builds on the excellent work already underway.
Geoff Barton, secretary general of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: their students on this crucial topic.
“It is very clear that children and young people rightly want much more concerted action from policy makers to address the climate emergency. They are fed up with platitudes and hope the Cop26 will make real progress. “