NEW INQUIRY Environmental Education: a Follow-up to Learning the Sustainability Lesson

NEW INQUIRY Environmental Education: a Follow-up to Learning the Sustainability Lesson

The Environmental Audit Committee is launching today an inquiry which revisits the  subject of education for sustainable development (ESD).  On 31 July, 2003 the Environmental Audit Committee published its report, "Learning the Sustainability Lesson".  The report examined how far the Government had sought to harness the power of learning (both informal and formal) in promoting a better understanding of its sustainable development goals.  During the course of the inquiry the Committee particularly considered how far the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) was promoting an educational system which fosters education for sustainable development.

The Committee believes that this is a particularly pertinent time to return to the subject of ESD, not least because there is some concern that the term itself has become compromised and its substance diluted.  It has also been over 12 months since the DfES published its Sustainable Development Action Plan and work is currently underway to review the current UK Sustainable Development Strategy.  This month has also seen the publication of the 14-19 Working Group's report, "14-19 Curriculum and Qualifications Reform",  which will help to inform a DfES White Paper expected early next year.

The Environmental Audit Committee will be appointing a sub-committee, under the Chairmanship of Joan Walley MP, which will examine what progress has been made towards developing an effective sustainable development strategy which uses both formal and informal learning avenues to aid its delivery; the impact of the DfES Sustainable Development Action Plan; and the way forward to the White Paper and beyond.  

We are particularly seeking views on the following questions:

1.Has the term Education for Sustainable Development lost its currency?    Does it have any resonance with the general public? Has the environmental message been lost?

2.The DfES said that the Sustainable Development Action Plan was supposed to signal the start of a process of change, identifying the most powerful levers - what can be achieved immediately and what can be built upon. More than a year on can it be said that that process of change has begun and have there been any immediate achievements?

2.Government is currently reviewing the UK Sustainable Development Strategy. What should the Strategy include in order to significantly strengthen the role of leaning within it?  

3.Does the 14-19 Working Group's report, "14-19 Curriculum and Qualifications Reform", go far enough? Will ESD be adequately represented if this report is used as the basis for the forthcoming White Paper?  What should the White Paper say about ESD?

4.In response to our last inquiry the DfES said they recognised that more could be done to embed ESD in the school curriculum and that they would lead on strengthening ESD links within geography, design and technology, science and citizenship. Has there been any discernible improvement in these areas? Is there evidence that this work has been taken forward by the DfES and its agencies?

5.The role of informal learning, including youth work, work-based learning and adult and community learning, in taking the environmental education agenda forward is key. Is the Government doing enough in these crucial areas? 

6.Is there any evidence to suggest that the Government is getting better at getting the environment message across to the general public? In particular, is there any evidence to suggest that sufficient work is being done at regional and local levels to support environmental education?

7.Are there sufficient resources available to deliver against the government's commitment to education for sustainable development in light of the loss of the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme and the loss of the education criteria from DEFRA's Environmental Action Plan, for example?

The Committee would be grateful to receive memoranda from interested individuals and organisations relating to these issues.  Written evidence should be sent to the Clerk to the Sub-committee, Miss Lynne Spiers, by Friday 26 November 2004 either by  post or emailed to eacom@parliament.uk. For printing purposes we would be grateful if electronic copies could be provided where possible.  A brief guidance note on the preparation and submission of evidence is available on the Committees web pages.

Notes for Editors

1.The EAC's sub-committee will be known as the Sub-Committee on Environmental Education: A follow-up to Learning the Sustainability Lesson. Its membership will be determined before the end of the current Session of Parliament

Joan Walley MP will be the Chairman

2.Details of all the Committees inquiries, together with its Reports and other publications, are available on the internet at its homepage.