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Completed 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 was to co-create a manifesto for Education for Environmental Sustainability (EfES) in secondary education in the UK. 

To achieve this, the commission designed and led 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 were recruited from the teams’ extensive school networks. Workshops created opportunities to share experiences of, and visions for, EfES and will be analysed to generate a manifesto for EfES.  The manifesto was 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 presents evidence (in the form of documenting stakeholder perspectives) to inform action in policy-making, practice and research. 

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 co-created, 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 – used the commission process to critically analyse opportunities for education in, about and for the environment across the UK. 

The manifesto, co-produced with teachers, youth and researchers, aims to 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.

To see a video summary of the manifesto, please visit here or read the manifesto and supporting in papers in full by following the links below.

Profile picture of Lynda Dunlop
Lynda Dunlop, Dr

Senior Lecturer in Science Education at University of York

Lynda Dunlop is Director of Education for Environmental Sustainability at York, and a senior lecturer in science education. Her research is interdisciplinary, working across the social sciences, sciences and arts and humanities. Current studies...

Profile picture of Elizabeth Rushton
Elizabeth Rushton, Professor

Head of Education Division at University of Stirling

Professor Elizabeth Rushton is a professor in Education and the head of the Division of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stirling. Her research interests are in geography and science education, specifically the...

Content associated with this project

Spring 2022

Education for environmental sustainability Research Intelligence issue 150 This 150th issue of Research Intelligence reflects and builds upon the renewed focus on education for environmental...

Research Intelligence24 Feb 2022