Climate crisis education should become fully embedded in the system, unions have urged.
A joint letter to the education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, calls for a review of the curriculum to ensure everyone is mobilised for a “sustainable future”.
Four unions representing school, college and university staff say young people have the most to lose from the lack of direction on climate change in the run-up to crucial Cop26 talks in Glasgow.
The unions are calling for important measures to be embedded in the education system of concern that the government has yet to grasp the gravity of the situation, they say.
They also say ministers should introduce a comprehensive plan to “decarbonise the entire school estate by 2030” as part of an overdue refurbishment and repair programme.
The letter calls for a comprehensive review of the entire curriculum and a detailed policy on green travel for students, staff and parents.
It says the measures should be announced before or during the UN climate summit because any other initiative will “be seen as window dressing for a lack of strategic urgency”.
Leaders of the National Education Union (NEU), NASUWT, the University and College Union (UCU) and Unison all signed the letter.
The letter also suggests that teacher training standards could be amended to include learning about the climate emergency and a new professional qualification on the issue created to address concerns.
It says the Education Act could be amended to impose a new duty on schools to ensure they designate a member of staff as a climate coordinator.
The general secretary of the NASUWT, Dr Patrick Roach, said: “The UK government needs to step up to ensure teachers have the resources and tools to provide access to curriculum entitlements that give all children and young people the opportunity to develop their understanding of environmental issues and to be responsible citizens.
“We also need to see much more action from the government to deliver substantial improvements to the energy efficiency of existing school buildings which have suffered from significant under-investment over decades.”
The joint general secretary of the NEU, Dr Mary Bousted, said: “It is the next generation that will bear the brunt of any inaction on climate change. We all need to play a part in ensuring a sustainable future for our young people.
“Schools and colleges can play their part and the UK government needs to ensure that quality climate change education is embedded across the curriculum, as well as focusing on decarbonising the education estate by 2031.”
The assistant general secretary of Unison, Jon Richards, said: “Not only is it vital young people learn about a greener tomorrow but the government must ensure schools are able to practise what they teach.
“Classrooms and facilities need significant investment to ensure they reach net zero targets, and transport for pupils, staff and parents has to be sustainable.”
A government spokesperson said: “Climate change is embedded in multiple subjects in the national curriculum throughout primary and secondary school, and we launched a new environmental science A-level to give students the opportunity to study the subject further.
“We are also investing millions in long-term projects to build greener and more energy-efficient schools, and in initiatives to encourage more people to walk and cycle to school.”