UCL - Teaching climate change and sustainability

38 The survey results further strengthen the case for curriculum change whereby the largest proportion of respondents (57.7%) selected ‘More mentions of climate change/sustainability content in the National Curriculum for my subject’ as one of their ‘top 5’ priority areas for increased support. However, larger proportions of these respondents taught at primary level compared with secondary, and in subjects other than geography and science. Thus, targeted curriculum change that actively facilitates cross-curricula and cross-phase teaching and learning emerges as a key opportunity for strengthening the climate change and sustainability education provision in England. Any need for curriculum changes notwithstanding, research commissioned by Teach the Future (Catallo et al., 2022) has advocated for an ‘action-oriented curriculum’, an approach which teachers in England broadly support (Howard-Jones et al., 2021). This work pragmatically highlights immediate opportunities that align with the existing curriculum where teachers can support students’ abilities to act in response to climate change. Any discussion of the ways in which national curricula focus teachers’ practice also needs to consider the influential role that examinations and assessments play within the school system in England, in particular as part of a wider ‘assessment culture’ which shapes teachers’ practice (Perryman & Calvert, 2020) and workload (Walker et al., 2019). As reported above, only 24.3% of respondents identified changes to exam specifications as a ‘top 5’ priority for support; however, such change was more frequently prioritised amongst teachers of science and of other subjects at any phase of school than it was for teachers of geography (future analysis could consider these responses in relation to variation in exam specifications across subjects and phases). Whilst meaningful climate change and sustainability education extends well beyond what can be captured in exams and assessment, and previous research has identified that teachers and young people want them to be decoupled (Dunlop et al., 2022), in the shorter term, changes to exam specifications might well have an impact on the breadth of climate change and sustainability education that young people access. Consistent with the above curriculum discussion, the survey analysis prompts thinking about how to bring subjects beyond the usual suspects (in this case, geography and science) to the fore when teaching climate change and sustainability in schools.