Climate change to be taught to schoolchildren as young as 5 in major shake-up

Question Time audience member grills panel over COP26

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Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi believes telling children that humans harm the planet is one of the “key weapons” in the fight against climate change. A new “model science curriculum” will encourage teachers to educate children about their impact on the natural world.

Mr Zahawi, who will set out his proposals in a speech at the COP26 climate conference, said this teaching will “equip 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.”

As well as changing the curriculum for younger pupils, Mr Zahawi plans to weave teaching about climate change into other lessons at secondary schools, including English, and to encourage schools to install wildlife features on their grounds to promote “biodiversity”.

The Department for Education hopes these measures will put “climate change at the heart of education”.

But critics worry that the curriculum will push teachers away from teaching children how to think towards teaching them what to think, with some saying the plans could amount to political indoctrination.

“No! Politically and scientifically contentious subjects should be taught in a fair and balanced way,” said Toby Young, the co-founder of the Knowledge Schools Trust, on Twitter.

Drusilla Summers, a Parliamentary staffer for the DUP, added that “I’m all for kids being taught not to litter, respect wildlife and our surroundings, but considering current climate hysteria, this sounds like propaganda, which has no place in schools”.

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The plans were warmly welcomed by the UN on Thursday evening, according to the Mail.

They are also likely to receive a good reception at COP26, which is currently being held in Glasgow.

James Bowen, Director of Policy for school leaders’ union the NAHT, told the Times Educational Supplement that the curriculum will act as a good addition to the measures already being taken by schools across the country to teach children about the climate.

“There is a huge amount of good work already taking place in schools to reduce their carbon footprint and we know this generation of pupils are passionate about bringing about meaningful change,” he said.

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“A coherent national strategy is essential if we are to see real impact.

“The Government must be truly ambitious, not just looking to new buildings but also at how the existing school estate can be made as environmentally friendly as possible.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added that children are “fed up with platitudes and will be hoping that COP26 delivers real progress”.

But one concern, reportedly raised by a critic at the UN, is that teaching children of ages about the damage they do to the earth could create “panic” and damage their mental health.

Journalist Suzanne Evans said on Twitter that this is a particular worry following months of lockdowns which strongly impacted the lives of children.

“First the Government terrified children via Covid, telling them not to ‘kill granny’. Now it wants to terrify them still further by outlining their ‘impact’ on the environment,” she said.

“Well, that’s called ‘living’. And I highly recommend it. Especially to kids.”

The curriculum will be in place by 2023.

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