Education (Environment and Sustainable Citizenship) Bill [HL] - Third Reading – in the House of Lords at 10:19 am on 4 March 2022.

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Lord Knight of Weymouth:

Moved by Lord Knight of Weymouth

That the Bill do now pass.

Photo of Lord Knight of Weymouth Lord Knight of Weymouth Labour

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass, and in doing so I thank noble Lords on all sides, Jamie Agombar from Teach the Future, Ann Finlayson from SEEd and members of Peers for the Planet for their support. There are many outside organisations, both environmental and educational, which have met with me, discussed this and given great encouragement. Finally, I thank Darren Jones MP, who has agreed to take this forward in the other place.

I hope that the Bill encourages the Government to build on the consultation the Secretary of State launched at COP 26 on 5 November, and to firm up on the direction of travel set out in that strategy by moving from a voluntarist approach to something that has rather more teeth. I hope they can embrace that as this is debated in the other place.

Photo of Lord Blunkett Lord Blunkett Labour

My Lords, can I just say a word before my own Front Bench responds? I congratulate my noble friend on this legislative endeavour and, crucially, the debate it has initiated both in this House and across the education sector. Citizenship education would be enhanced if we were able to add to the existing curriculum, as my noble friend Lord Knight indicated, this critical issue for the future.

Given the geopolitics of the moment—the crisis facing Ukraine, the energy issues that reverberate from that conflict and the Russian action against a sovereign country—it is absolutely crucial that we have in our schools and colleges the necessary education, enthusiasm and commitment to ensure that we get this right for the future.

Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

My Lords, we are all indebted to my noble friend Lord Knight for bringing this Bill forward and, in doing so, drawing on his long-established commitment to and campaigning on sustainability and environmental education.

At earlier stages of the Bill, both the Minister and her predecessor said the Bill was unnecessary as schools could be trusted to teach pupils about the issues that combine to create the climate emergency as part of citizenship education. But young people themselves tell us that that is not enough. The Government should—and, I believe, could—support it as one way of reinforcing the messages they sent out at COP 26. I know that is not going to happen, but we on these Benches support my noble friend’s Bill and wish it well in another place.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, for highlighting this very important issue. While the Government agree with the sentiment of the Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Watson, just suggested, they do not believe that amending the curriculum is the right way to encourage pupils to learn about a sustainable environment. The subjects of citizenship, science and geography all include content on sustainability and the environment, and schools have the autonomy to go into as much depth on these subjects as they see fit.

We are taking action to support schools to develop further pupil knowledge and skills in relation to these very important issues. Our draft sustainability and climate change strategy, which we announced at COP 26, set out two new initiatives: the national education nature park and the climate leaders award. Together, these schemes will build on knowledge gained in the classroom to provide practical opportunities for all pupils to learn more about nature and biodiversity, develop key digital skills that are essential components to solving climate change and be empowered to take positive action. Alongside this, teachers will have access to improved training in climate education, including a primary science module curriculum, science CPD and free access to high-quality resources. We have engaged widely and plan to publish the final strategy in April.

Photo of Lord Knight of Weymouth Lord Knight of Weymouth Labour

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friends Lord Blunkett and Lord Watson—particularly my noble friend Lord Blunkett, who is the father of citizenship in our schools. I think my noble friend Lord Watson’s comments about the views of young people that autonomy is not delivering are shared by teachers. If the Minister, or her colleague Robin Walker, had the appetite and the time to meet with me and Darren Jones before the Bill goes to the other place, we would be very grateful.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Either I or, even better, my honourable friend in the other place would be delighted to meet with the noble Lord.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.