The government have announced the introduction of a new climate award to recognise the work of young people’s actions to protect the environment, with a prestigious national awards ceremony held each year.
The Climate Leaders Award will help children and young people develop their skills and knowledge in biodiversity and sustainability, and celebrate and recognise their work in protecting the local environment.
For example, young people may choose to undertake a project that delivers change in their local community, such as increasing the biodiversity of a neighbourhood piece of land or helping to deliver experiences for younger children to explore nature and local woodland.
Similar to the Duke of Edinburgh Award, pupils and students will be able to attain ‘bronze’, ‘silver’ and ‘gold’ medals.
The award aims to promote the skills “to build a sustainable future” starting from inside the classroom, said Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi.
He said: “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.”
The Education Secretary also told BBC Breakfast Mr Zahawi a new model science curriculum to be implemented in 2023 would be designed to “support and enrich” the teaching of climate change for primary school pupils.
Alongside the award, plans to test innovative new Energy Pods that can replace gas and coal boilers and supply all a school’s heating and hot water without any carbon emissions are set to be announced.
These are being tested first in some schools and then could be rolled out to other public sector buildings.
‘Energy Pods’ are a low to zero carbon plug and play technological solution which provide heating and hot water to existing school settings via solar panels and technology to maximise their output.
Arguing the government’s climate targets depend on a transformative education system, Ms Whittome wrote that if ministers are serious about reaching the legally binding target of net zero by 2050 they “need the workforce to do it”.
“For all the government’s talk about the importance of skills-based education, it is missing a trick by failing to train the next generation who will be essential to the transition to a low-carbon economy,” the Labour MP said.
Ahead of a debate on the issue of climate change and the school curriculum in Westminster Hall — led by Ms Whittome — she stressed the education system needed to stop treating the “disaster” of the climate crisis as a “hypothetical future and instead ensure we are ready for what is an inevitable reality”.
“We need to ensure climate education is no longer exclusive to those who take optional subjects or briefly glazed over, but instead centred in all subjects,” she said.
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