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Ongoing project

BERA Research Commission 2021/22 – A teacher and youth co-created manifesto for Education for Environmental Sustainability (EfES) from the four jurisdictions of the UK

The primary objective of this commission is to co-create a manifesto for Education for Environmental Sustainability (EfES) in secondary education in the UK. 

To achieve this, it will design and lead five participative and inclusive online workshops (each lasting 2hrs), involving at least 100 youth (16-18 years) and 30 teachers, drawn from across the four jurisdictions of the UK. Participants will be recruited from the teams’ extensive school networks. Workshops will create opportunities to share experiences of, and visions for, EfES and will be analysed to generate a manifesto for EfES.  The manifesto will be co-authored by participants and launched in November 2021 to coincide with COP26, the UN climate change conference.  The manifesto – the first of its kind for the UK – and accompanying technical report will present evidence (in the form of documenting stakeholder perspectives) to inform action in policy-making, practice and research.  Our key questions are:

  • What is the current context for EfES, and what do we need?
  • What can we learn from others’ experiences of EfES?
  • What could the future of EfES look like?

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN, 1989) protects young people’s rights to express views on matters affecting them, but these tend to go unheard, and youth have few opportunities to be involved in environmental decision-making affecting them (Thew, Middlemiss and Paavola, 2020). Models of how to achieve EfES abound but more widespread and co-ordinated action has been obstructed in some jurisdictions by policies associated with standards, accountability and safeguarding, and risk aversion (Eaton and Day, 2020; Dunlop et al., 2020). We will co-create, with teachers and youth, a vision of what EfES ought to be and the means by which it can be achieved. Our approach is rooted in collectivity, participation and inclusivity, with a focus on creating spaces for voices less frequently heard in discussions and debates concerning EfES (such as youth with special educational needs) and workable solutions to environmental challenges. 

This commission responds to young people’s demands for climate action through education (UK Student Climate Network, 2020).  EfES is understood and enacted differently in policy across the four jurisdictions of the UK.  Similarly, research literature presents different approaches to EfES including action competence (Læssøe, 2017) and critical pedagogies in the tradition of Freire (2017).  This variation presents an opportunity for learning across different (national, research, curriculum and practice) contexts.  Key actors – youth, teachers and researchers – will critically analyse opportunities for education in, about and for the environment across the UK. 

The manifesto, co-produced with teachers, youth and researchers, will create a stimulus for action on EfES based upon shared understandings, appreciations of difference, and tangible future actions. We will persuade policy-makers and organisations to engage with the manifesto and sign a pledge to acknowledge the importance of youth and teacher perspectives and to commit to review the place and future of EfES within their own organisations’ vision and strategy.  The manifesto and technical appendix will help to set the strategic direction for BERA on EfES research.

How to contribute

The commission welcomes contributions from secondary teachers and young people aged 16-18 in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales at this stage. To find out more and sign up for an interactive workshop on what the future of education for sustainability could look like, visit:

Lynda Dunlop, Dr.

Senior Lecturer in Science Education at University of York

Lynda Dunlop is a senior lecturer in science education at the University of York. Her teaching and research focuses on youth and teacher responses to environmental issues, and on the connections between science education and environmental and...

Elizabeth Rushton, Dr.

King's College, London

Dr Elizabeth Rushton's research interests are focused in geography and science education, specifically the professional development of teachers, student participation in research, and environmental education. Elizabeth joined King’s in 2019 as...

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