Response from Dept of Education on Petition to keep Climate Change in Curriculum

I thought that I would post this missive verbatim, to preserve the officialese, and to put it into the public record. What is a Government for if not to lead?

If the major issues of the day are not capable of being tackled by each of us as individuals, then we apply to our elected leaders to help us to manage our way through a crisis.  This does not show or offer leadership, but an abdication of responsibility.

Dear Mr Bergin

Thank you for your email of 13 June regarding the removal of climate change from the National Curriculum.The Government has pledged to make this the ‘greenest government ever’, with plans to protect the natural environment, tackle climate change and promote sustainability. It is also committed to sustainable development and the importance of preparing young people for the future.At the same time, the Government’s approach to reform is based on the belief that schools perform better when they take responsibility for their own improvement. We want schools to make their own judgements on how sustainable development should be reflected in their ethos, day-to-day operations and education for sustainable development. We are helping schools to do this by working closely with the Sustainable Schools Alliance, a group of voluntary organisations who are working together to provide a clear and compelling offer of support to all schools in the country. This will help and encourage schools to put sustainability at the heart of what they do.

In terms of the curriculum, it is essential to draw a distinction between the statutory National Curriculum and the wider school curriculum, which covers everything that children learn in school. The National Curriculum was originally envisaged as a guide to study in key subjects which would give parents and teachers confidence that pupils were acquiring the knowledge necessary at every level of study to make appropriate progress. As it has developed, it has come to cover more subjects and topics, prescribe more outcomes and take up more school time than originally intended.

All the evidence shows that the best performing education systems set clear expectations and rigorous standards, but then allow teachers the freedom to teach. The current National Curriculum includes too much prescription, squeezing out room for innovation, creativity, deep understanding and intellectual exploration. So the aim of the review is to slim down the National Curriculum so that it reflects the essential knowledge in key subjects and does not absorb the overwhelming majority of teaching time in schools. A slimmed down National Curriculum will free up teachers to use their professional judgement to design a wider school curriculum that meet the needs of their pupils.

In keeping with this approach, the Government believes that the National Curriculum Programme of Study for science should prescribe the core scientific knowledge that underpins scientific understanding, including understanding of climate change. It should not attempt to specify the vast range of health, social and environmental issues that can and should be discussed in schools. It is for teachers to choose, as context for their teaching, issues that are relevant to their pupils and the modern world. We fully expect teachers to consider tackling issues of social and environmental importance, including climate change.The detailed content of the new Programme of Study for science is still being developed in light of international evidence and responses to our recent call for evidence. The Expert Panel, of which Tim Oates is chair, will be advising in due course on what that content should be. No decisions have yet been taken, and Ministers will be considering all the issues carefully before announcing their proposals early next year. Following that announcement there will be a full public consultation before final decisions are taken.

Yours sincerelyChristine Orme
Public Communications Unit

Department for Education

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