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UK teachers say they lack training on climate change, study finds

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Nearly three-quarters of British teachers say they have not had enough training to educate students about climate change; the implications of global warming, or how best to confront these issues, according to a study conducted by a campaign group.

The study, by youth-led group Teach the Future, found that although 90 per cent of teachers thought climate change education should be compulsory, 41 per cent said it was rarely or never mentioned in their schools. Seven out of 10 teachers said they had not received adequate training on the topic.

Meanwhile, in schools where children learned about climate change, the survey found it was mostly limited to science and geography lessons, with only one in 20 teachers agreeing the issue was integral to many areas across the curriculum.

“Climate change will significantly affect our lives and our education should therefore prepare us to adapt to the climate crisis; empower us to contribute to its solutions, and enable us to achieve climate justice,” said Dorothy Joddrell, a student campaigner at Teach the Future. “To ensure all students can benefit from climate education, the government needs to make it a key part of the whole curriculum, not brush most of it aside from an optional subject.”

When asked how they could frame climate change to interest their pupils, 65 per cent of teachers said they could do this in terms of animals, nature and wildlife, but just 25 per cent said they thought they could cover the issue through careers and green jobs, according to the research. 

Teach the Future, which aims to improve education on climate change, was founded by a group of secondary school students after the school climate strikes in 2019, led by teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. The study also included findings from two polls: one using a sample of 7,682 teachers, the other a sample of 503.

UNESCO, the United Nations education body, has highlighted education as a key plank in tackling climate change, amid warnings from scientists that world leaders are failing to take sufficient action to curb global warming. Research by the National Union of Students in 2019 showed that only four per cent of schoolchildren in England felt they knew a lot about climate change.

Earlier this month, Meg Baker, director of education at Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK), told the Environmental Audit Committee's Green Jobs Inquiry that improved education on climate change could help grow low-carbon industries in the UK, as students could be equipped to make their future workplaces more sustainable.

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