A History of Sustainability in the Curriculum for England

It is 50 years since Rachel Carson and ‘Silent Spring’

It is also 50 years since SEEd (formally CEE), and other environmental charities started. Most had education as a charitable objective. CEE expressly wanted to get environmental education into schools. So what has happened since then?

1960’s – Many environmental organisations began or were encouraged by Rachael Carson’s writings and an emerging environmental movement. Large UK NGO’s began discussing how to enable environmental education (EE) in the school system

1967 – Plowden Report re-confirmed the value of the environment in the education of young

1968 – CEE (Council for Environmental Education) is incorporated as a new charity with a membership of the large environmental organisations in the UK

1972 – EE gained international recognition in the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden. In Recommendation 96, EE is called upon as a means to address the environmental issues worldwide.

1975 – Belgrade Charter,  Yugoslavia (UNESCO),

“Environmental education, properly understood, should constitute a comprehensive lifelong education, one responsive to changes in a rapidly changing world. It should prepare the individual for life through an understanding of the major problems of the contemporary world, and the provision of skills and attributes needed to play a productive role towards improving life and protecting the environment with due regard given to ethical values. The goal of environmental education is to develop a world population that is aware of, and concerned about, the environment and its associated problems, and which has the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations, and commitment to work individually and collectively toward solutions of current problems and the prevention of new ones.”

1977 – Tbilisi Declaration

1980’s – there were environmental education advisors in all local authorities (about 400)

1987 – Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report,  by the United Nations through the Oxford University Press.

1992 – Rio Earth Summit – Chapter 36 on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), focus was governments, Local Authorities and professional bodies. Agenda 21 begun as a result

1996 – John Huckle and Stephen Sterling publish the first ever ESD book ‘ Education for Sustainability’, Earthscan

1997-2002 – Sustainable Development Education Panel worked and advised on all areas of education and learning.

1998 – Holland Report published with 7 key concepts and scoped over the whole of a students education career.

2000 – statement in the National Curriculum values and aims: “Pupils should develop awareness and understanding of, and respect for, the environments in which they live, and secure their commitment to sustainable development at a personal, national and global level.” Plus included in Geography, Science, D&T and citizenship subjects

2001 – First ever online ESD course is created by Ann Finlayson and Catherine Atthill for WWF-UK

2001 – Stephen Sterling publishes ‘Sustainable Education – Revisioning Learning and Change’, Schumacher Briefings.

2002 – Johannesburg Earth Summit – agreed a Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (DESD)

2003 – Decade for ESD starts (until Nov 2014). DCSF (UK Education department) is the first government department to develop a Sustainable Development Action Plan supported by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC)

2004 – WWF-UK launch Pathways – a whole school approach to sustainability

2005 – DCSF with SDC develop the Sustainable Schools Initiative – around campus, curriculum, community and 8 doorways. Ann Finlayson is appointed as the first Education Commissioner for the SDC

2006 – QCA develop their overview of the curriculum and create ‘The Big Picture’ – puts sustainability and global citizenship as a cross curricular theme, (one of 6 or 7)

2008 – Ann Finlayson is brought in by the CEE Board to restart CEE with a new business plan.

2009 – CEE is closed and replaced with SEEd under new modern charity guidance. Ann Finlayson is CEO, and a new Observatory Board was created to gather insights into the state of EE/ESD

2010 – new government, Sustainable Schools Initiative is closed down and all sustainability mentions removed

2010 – SEEd begins its annual National Sustainable Schools Conferences

2010 – SEEd begins its first Changemaker course

2011 – Sustainable Schools Alliance is launched by SEEd at LSE to continue the work of the Sustainable Schools Initiative

2012 – WWF, the NCB and SEEd funded the TES Sustainable Schools Award.

2013 – SEEd begins its campaign with RSPB and KBT to add a purpose to the Education Act (UK). To include ‘care for oneself, care for others and care for the enviornment’

2014 – SEEd attends the UN Decade for ESD Final Conference in Japan, and then becomes a KeyGlobal Partner with UNESCO

2015 – UN announce the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which the UK is a signatory

2014-2019 – SEEd as a UNESCO Key Global Partner on the GAP progarmme works on Partner Network 2 on Whole Institution Approaches to Sustainability.

2018 – SEEd begins its Young Changemaker course trials at Wellington College

2020 – 2021 COVID but SEEd delivers its Changemaker course online

2021 – SEEd is invited to advise DfE (UK Department for Education) on its new Sustainability and Climate Change  Strategy

2021 – SEEd becomes CoChair of Our Shared World (OSW) which grows to 350 organisations and individuals aiming to instil SDG 4.7 in UK education

2022 – Launch of the DfE Sustainability and Climate Change  Strategy

2022 – Sustainability is included as a ‘strand’ in the Festival of Education hosted by Wellington College for the first time after a proposal from SEEd and the Head of Sustainability at Wellington.

2022-23 – SEEd advises EC/EU on ESD and future of sustainability in Education

2023 – SEEd launches scaled up local version of Young Changemakers