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Blog post Part of special issue: Education and the climate crisis: A curriculum for sustainability

Climate in the classroom: A big year for sustainability and climate education

Andrew Charlton-Perez, Professor of Meteorology at University of Reading

It’s a pleasure to have been asked to give an overview of work on sustainability and climate education both at the BERA/British Curriculum climate crisis event on November 16 2023 and for this blog. I come to this subject as a climate scientist, with more than 20 years’ experience as an active researcher and educator working in higher education. I’m also, like many of those more experienced educational researchers contributing to and reading this blog, acutely aware of the need for young people at all levels of education to understand more about how their lives will be shaped by the connected environmental crises that we face. As our understanding of the multitude of ways that these changes influence our lives and livelihoods grows, so does the need to weave clear, science-informed information into all levels of education across subjects and skills.

At the University of Reading, we’ve been working with a diverse and growing range of organisations to help find ways in which these important changes can happen at pace and at scale. We developed a National Climate Education Action Plan through our Climate Education Summit in September 2021 that brought together policymakers, scientists, educators and young people and which informed part of the Department for Education (DfE) sustainability and climate change strategy. The group that formed through this work continues to meet and develop strategies for, for example, new quality control processes for climate education materials. We hold meetings every six months online, and are open to new members joining us to lend their expertise to this work. Please email us at if you would like to get involved.

‘Education settings are a great place to bring this work together, helping young people and their families see the connections between their own communities and the global health of our planet.’

As we move through 2024, we are excited to be part of the next phase of work for the DfE strategy – climate action planning (CAP) for all education settings. Climate action planning is a critical step to bring together climate and sustainability education with decarbonisation, the development of adaptation and resilience plans and increased engagement of young people with nature and biodiversity. Education settings are a great place to bring this work together, helping young people and their families see the connections between their own communities and the global health of our planet. I will be jointly leading one of the consortia chosen to support education settings to develop their CAPs building on our successful Climate Ambassador programme.

More than 200 climate ambassadors already donate their time and expertise to help education settings across England. The new funding will allow us to develop nine regional hubs for the Climate Ambassador programme in each of the English educational regions. Hubs will be based at:

  • Manchester Metropolitan University (North West)
  • University of Newcastle (North East)
  • University of Leeds (Yorkshire and The Humber)
  • Keele University (West Midlands)
  • Universities for Nottingham (East Midlands)
  • University of East Anglia (East Anglia)
  • Met Office (South West)
  • University of Reading (South East)
  • University College London (London)

The consortium will be jointly led by the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (EAUC) and will also involve STEM Learning, Hopscotch, Change Agents and Let’s Go Zero. We will be working closely with the consortium which will deliver a digital hub of resources and tools to help settings develop, monitor and refine their CAPs.

We can’t wait to get started on this exciting new project and we hope that many others will want to join us as Climate Ambassadors. If you want to find out more about the scheme please do drop us a line at the same climate education address above. Similarly, if you work in an education setting, there will be lots more communication coming your way in the next few months to let you know how to develop a CAP through the digital hub, how to request support from a Climate Ambassador and how to work with other settings in your community to take the whole education system forward.

Of course, there is so much to do and time is short. But I’m excited that, through this project and the enthusiasm and momentum within the education system, this is a great opportunity to make lasting and meaningful change.