climate literacy

RMetS Report Reveals Easy Wins for Climate Change Education in England

Angela Lovell
15 June 2023

There are many opportunities for better climate change education within the current secondary school curriculum in England, reveals our report published today.

A key finding was that, through supplying teacher support and assessment resources, very rapid improvements can be made to the climate literacy of English school leavers.

Our research reviewed the GCSE specifications across all subjects and exam boards and highlighted how many concepts already taught in schools are relevant to students’ understanding of climate change and its relevance to their future lives and careers.

Climate change is traditionally taught in subjects such as Geography, however not all students take Geography at GCSE meaning that a considerable proportion of students leave school without a basic understanding of climate change. Also, there are many aspects of climate change that are relevant to subjects like Design and Technology, Art, or English.

Our earlier research published in 2022, shows that there are notable gaps in how much students understand about climate change. However, students are concerned and believe that climate change will affect them personally. With the right support and without increasing teacher workload, teachers can help students to make the connection between what they are already learning in school and climate change.

Andrew Charlton-Perez, Prof of Meteorology and Lead of National Climate Education Action Plan, University of Reading, said: “This fantastic piece of work is something that the education sector has needed for a long time. It shows how the change that many young people have been calling for, that climate be integrated across their education in all subjects, is within reach.

“If all organisations with an interest in improved climate education can use these findings to train teachers, and develop materials and clear climate action plans, such as those called for in the Department for Education Sustainability and Climate Change strategy, we can make very rapid progress on improved climate literacy for all.” 

Prof Sylvia Knight, Head of Education at the RMetS, added: “The Royal Meteorological Society is working to ensure that every student in the UK leaves school with at least a basic understanding of climate change.

“This valuable report shows how teachers can be supported to deliver high quality climate education, within the current curriculum, to equip students with the knowledge and tools to engage with messages about climate change from the media and politicians, and to make decisions about their own lives and careers.

“We are indebted to the RMetS members involved in the review; without their support and expertise this work would have not been possible.”

Steve Brace, The Royal Geographical Society, said: 

“The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) welcomes this research by the Royal Meteorological Society which identifies the explicit coverage of climate change within GCSE geography courses. 

"With 283,000 GCSE entries in 2023 geography is providing the ‘lion’s share’ of teaching about climate change. Yet there is more to do to enhance this work within the current specifications. The RGS looks forward to working with the Royal Meteorological Society to help geography teachers further develop their lessons examining the causes and impact of climate change.”

The report can be found here