A new report published by the Education and Training Foundation (@E_T_Foundation) on the experiences of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in the Further Education (FE) sector reveals that 68% of the workforce feel that the current UK post-16 education system does not adequately educate learners on sustainability issues.

The report is based on a survey of over 800 teachers, trainers and leaders in the FE sector, which includes colleges and independent training providers. It found that over 70% feel there needs to be either more or a lot more teaching in the post-16 UK education system about a range of subjects that relate to ESD.

ESD is an integral part of quality education, providing an opportunity for everyone to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. Back in November 2020, the UK government published an ambitious Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution which will create and support up to 250,000 high-skilled jobs. The £12bn plan is the most overt sustainability commitment since the 2008 Climate Change Act and focuses on building back better: to invest in making the UK a global leader in green technologies, supporting green jobs, and accelerating the UK’s path to net zero emissions.

The Green Jobs Taskforce was established last year to set the direction for the job market to enable the transition to a high-skill, low carbon economy. It published its recommendations to the education and skills sector as well as industry and Government last month. It believes all jobs can be green and amongst its recommendations said that education providers should promote the effective teaching of climate change and the knowledge and skills (in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and other key subjects) they require.

Alongside other nations, the UK is also committed to the delivery of the internationally recognised United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and improve the lives and prospects of people world-wide by 2030.

The ETF’s report finds that awareness of the SDGs is relatively low in the FE and Training sector, with just 43% of respondents being familiar with them prior to participating in the survey. As the expert body for professional development and standards in FE across England, the ETF believes that the sector has a critical role to play in combating climate change and achieving sustainability and social justice both nationally and globally.

The majority of respondents (85%) agree that that the FE and Training sector has a valuable role to play in the achievement of sustainability goals. Nearly all respondents (94%) believe that all UK learners should be taught about sustainability issues.

Author of the report, Charlotte Bonner, National Head of Education for Sustainable Development at the Education and Training Foundation, said:

“Our research shows there is lots of great ESD practice happening across the country. Although there is widespread belief that the Further Education and Training sector is well placed to lead on sustainability solutions, this potential isn’t yet being realised. Everyone has a role to play. FE Sector leaders and educators need support to better equip current and future learners with the knowledge to understand the global challenges and the skills and agency to contribute to solving them.

“The results will further inform the ETF’s strategy to support the sector’s adoption of ESD to enhance teaching, learning, assessment and leadership. It also provides sector practitioners, providers and stakeholders data with which to plan their own ESD approaches.”

Steve Frampton, FE/HE Climate Commissioner and Association of Colleges (AoC) Climate Commissioner said:

“All our FE staff need urgent support and training to meet the needs identified by current and future learners, who consider the Climate Emergency as the most important challenge we face now. Without such support we will not achieve the existing government targets, let alone the more demanding ones our young people rightly want.

“The sector doesn’t lack ambition and has brilliant staff and leaders developing significant pockets of excellence, but lacks the vital significant investment, training, and resources to tackle these global challenges. This report helps highlight the way forward to ensure no college, no community, no staff and our amazing students gets left behind in this crisis.”

On Tuesday 31 August, Charlotte Bonner, the ETF’s National Head of Education for Sustainable Development, will be hosting a live webinar discussing the report findings, how the ETF is using the findings to promote further uptake of ESD, and how they can support your own sustainability work. The webinar is open for anyone with an interest in ESD including learners, teachers, trainers, policymakers and climate and education experts.


You can register your free place via the GoTo Webinar link here.

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