On 25th July, the Climate Action Network West Midlands (CANWM) held the last in their ‘Further, Faster, Together’ workshops, exploring the topic of low carbon education.

Speakers shared their experiences of four different climate education projects. Henry Greenwood from the ‘Green Schools Project’, recounted his journey from classroom teacher to supporting pupil led environmental projects in schools. Ash Sharma from SKIPs told attendees how he had come to develop a range of books to help pupils and their families learn about environmental issues. ‘Uprising’s’ Mikayla Jones talked about the Environmental Leadership Programme which connects young people aged 19-25 with sustainability leaders and supports them to create their own social action campaign based around the green issue of their choice. Finally, Ruth Tetlow and Fiona Morgan introduced ‘Small Footsteps’, a project bringing together children from different faiths to learn about the importance of protecting the natural world.

Discussion moved on to CANWM’s climate charter which calls for environmental issues to be embedded throughout the education curriculum. It was agreed that promoting awareness of environmental issues among young people while they’re still at school was vital as they are more likely to take those habits and attitudes into later life. Many people were understandably concerned about protecting the status of climate change in the curriculum, with one person suggesting that legislation would be the only way to ensure all pupils receive teaching on the subject.

The Green Schools Project had found that it can be hard to compete with all the other demands on school leaders’ time and attention. Making environmental initiatives part of school performance measures was suggested as a way of combating this, though that may not be popular in a sector already grappling with workload issues and a complex system of oversight.

More informal ways of influencing what goes on in schools were explored, such as engaging with governing boards, providing resources and training to teachers and highlighting the potential savings of better energy efficiency. Building links between schools and community groups with green skills to share has exciting possibilities for transforming the place of environmental issues in Birmingham’s schools and making them part of the day to day life of the city’s children.

Written by Fay Holland