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New sustainability vision for UK education

The Department for Education has launched a new strategy to prepare people of all ages for greener careers, as well as decarbonise the UK’s educational estate and the wider education supply chain.


The Department for Education has launched a new strategy to prepare people of all ages for greener careers, as well as decarbonise the UK’s educational estate and the wider education supply chain.

The Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy details how the UK education sector aims to become a world leader in climate change by 2030. Key elements include:

  • A new Climate Leaders Award for children and young people similar to the existing Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, launching in autumn 2022, to recognise work to improve the environment
  • New requirements on teachers to integrate sustainability issues related to their subject into their teaching from 2023
  • A new Natural History qualification at GCSE level by 2025, focusing on environmental and sustainability issues
  • Carbon literacy training for at least one person in every locally-maintained nursery, school, college and university by 2023 to build their knowledge of climate change and how to develop a climate action plan, ahead of a requirement for all education settings to have a nominated sustainability lead and climate action plan by 2025
  • A virtual ‘National Education Nature Park’ taking in the entire physical educational estate, to engage children and young people with the natural world and share best practice
  • An expansion of Skills Bootcamps so that more adults are able to upskill and retrain in key areas such as heat pumps, zero emission vehicles, carbon capture, nature restoration and waste management and recycling.

Transforming the educational estate

The strategy also sets out a vision to transform the educational estate. Schools, nurseries, colleges, universities and care buildings will be retrofitted to reduce emissions, and increase resilience to climate change and improve access to nature – with young people to be provided opportunities to practically engage in the process.

Educational building maintenance and procurement projects will be used to “provide opportunities for students to gain careers guidance”, while installation of technologies like heat pumps and low carbon boiler replacements, smart meters, and energy monitoring will be accompanied by “assembly information and interactive class exercises”.

Projects to improve biodiversity, air quality, shading and flood risk on school, college and university grounds will also be recorded online via the National Education Nature Park, which will begin sharing best practice by 2023.

Meanwhile, all new schools delivered by the Department for Education now have to be ‘net zero in operation’ and future-proofed for rising temperatures.

Education supply chain

The Strategy will also have an impact on suppliers in the educational sector. By 2023, all schools, colleges, nurseries and universities will be encouraged to procure from companies that have a commitment and action plan to achieve net zero by 2050.

Sustainability will also need to be part of the assessment and validation criteria for including suppliers on procurement frameworks, and schools will be supported to buy from procurement frameworks that offer sustainable goods and services.

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