Thursday, December 11, 2008

Global Footprint Network - Ecological Footprint

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Global citizenship education: the needs of teachers and learners

Lynn Davies, Clive Harber and Hiromi Yamashita
Lynn Davies, Clive Harber and Hiromi Yamashita are based at the Centre for International Education and Research [CIER], School of Education, University of Birmingham.

During 2002 – 2004, a DFID funded research project was conducted to identify:

1] the needs of teachers in the implementation of global citizenship education;

2] the needs of primary and secondary school pupils in terms of what they want to know or understand with regard to global citizenship and world events; and

3] the needs of teacher trainers and trainees in their preparation for teaching global citizenship.

Copies of this Report are available from CIER



This qualitative research was built on the work of the West Midlands Commission on Global Citizenship, and took place at six primary schools, six secondary schools, thirteen LEAs and three initial teacher training institutions in the area.

The vast majority of students, teachers, teacher educators, teacher trainees and LEA personnel that we interviewed saw global citizenship education as an area of high importance. For teachers this might be predictable, yet it is significant that it is confirmed by the students of all ages and levels. The research in these schools has countered the idea that students are insular or egocentric in outlook, or have little interest in politics. In contrast, they are puzzled by world events, and feel short-changed by schools if these are not given attention in depth.

Curriculum emphases
Students and teachers shared many views on what sort of areas should be in a global citizenship curriculum.

"We don't get opinions from other people around the world, it's just like we get it straight from Tony Blair on TV or some of the teachers they just tell you plain facts without any opinions and how they feel about it"
13 year old student

a] Learning about 'others': Firstly, in different ways, both students and teachers talked about the need or desire to learn about other cultures and religions, although only for the teachers was this need seen to derive from the problem of insularity of some students and communities; for the students it was driven by curiosity. Questions of identity were recognised as important by both students and teachers as needing to be talked about, particularly in order to tackle racism.

b] Global injustice: This leads to the second joint need, to explore and understand the big political issues of injustice and variations in wealth and poverty, as well as environmental degradation. Teachers in particular mentioned preparation for 'participation' as part of global citizenship education. Students wanted more political literacy, in the sense of understanding why things do or do not change as a result of political argument, thus how government actually works.

c] War and conflict: This leads to the third - and in some ways most outstanding need - which was the need to know more about war and conflict. Admittedly, this was in the context of the Iraq war and the continuing and huge media exposure; but it raised the important and continuing issue of learning about current and controversial events generally. Students of all ages and both sexes wanted to understand the reasons for war, for hate, for hypocrisy - and wanted to know about them in the current, real time context, not just in the safe area of history.

Key constraints and gaps
We outline four major problems which have emerged from this research. They confirm but also extend the findings from the DFID [2003] study on teachers' needs.

a] National Curriculum
The National Curriculum was seen almost uniformly as an actual or potential barrier to any decent global citizenship programme, both by teachers and pupils. This was in terms of focus [eg National Curriculum being Eurocentric], time, mindset, resources and assessment.

b] Fear of indoctrination
Global citizenship education by definition means tackling political issues. Some teachers are constrained by the interpretation of guidance that they should not 'impose' their political views or 'indoctrinate' their students. Interestingly, students very much wanted to know what teachers thought personally about global issues or conflict situations, and were frustrated if teachers refused to tell them. Students indeed did not want to be indoctrinated, but felt they were able to tell the difference between a teacher expressing their own political leanings and actively prescribing those views for others.

c] Lack of confidence to teach current controversial issues
This was raised by teachers, teacher trainees and LEA personnel. This issue has been a long-term concern in moral or religious education, but global citizenship education highlights or extends it in a number of ways. There is the linkage of global issues or events to the multicultural composition of the classroom or community, which requires extreme sensitivity.

There is the fact that much global citizenship education will arise from current events and happenings, which are unpredictable, and for which there is no 'script'. There is the reality that many current global issues are about disaster or conflict and have disturbing images, which means teachers possibly having to deal with a range of emotions from students. There is the perceived need for a strong personal information base about global issues in order to deal with students' questions and challenges.

d] Fear of agency
The rhetoric of participation in global citizenship issues was apparent, and this was indeed a reality for some schools. Charitable activity was popular. However, political participation was more problematic. As we saw, there were contradictory positions or policies on students joining demonstrations, with punitive measures sometimes for students who were categorised as truanting or leaving school without permission.

It is not our job to say that students should or should not be allowed to demonstrate, and we recognise the dilemmas involved; however it would seem that there needs to be a larger policy discussion of where students do make decisions and where students can exercise agency, and that this needs linking into discussions of student rights as well as responsibilities.

However, the study has revealed a number of 'enablers' or prerequisites which can start to tackle the above constraints and can provide a meaningful global citizenship programme in the schools to meet identified needs.

a] Creativity: As we saw in looking at what is happening in curriculum, teachers can and do exhibit a range of creative practices and lateral thinking in order to ensure that global citizenship education does take place. We saw many cross-curricular initiatives, with examples in a range of curriculum subjects from the expected history and geography to the less expected maths and music. Teachers are not necessarily any more indoctrinated by the National Curriculum than are students, and resistance and ingenuity can be alive and well. This does not however detract from the point that other teachers are going to need support and legitimation for such creativity. There should be structured and regular opportunities for teachers to work more creatively, share their work and thoughts with others and debate the complexity of the issues, as part of their continuing professional development.

b] Management: Teachers can work individually, but it is tiring and sometimes thankless. The research confirmed the second obvious point that global citizenship education is better when it is part of a whole school policy and has the backing of an informed headteacher. This then enables a proper curriculum progression, allocation of suitable time and a sense of co-ownership.

c] Resources: A third obvious enabler comprises suitable resources for global citizenship. Comments at this point would relate to the need to network within and across schools or NGOs to find and share resources, so that individual teachers or co-ordinators are not reinventing the wheel every time, nor overwhelmed, ironically, by too much information [or blatant advertising] coming in to the school about possible materials or packs. LEA advisors and NGOs would be highly important here.

Web Links:

For further details about the research contact:
or see CIER web-site:

Diversity & Citizenship

DfES Diversity & Citizenship

This independent review, led by Sir Keith Ajegbo, makes a series of recommendations aimed at promoting diversity across the schools curriculum and the content of the curriculum for Citizenship Education.

The key proposal is that the secondary curriculum for Citizenship Education should include a new element entitled 'Identity and Diversity: Living Together in the UK'. This will mean that all pupils, as part of compulsory secondary Citizenship Education, would be taught about shared values and life in the UK. This will be informed by an understanding of contemporary issues and relevant historical context which gave rise to them.

This approach should be supported by a range of measures to ensure that all curriculum subjects adequately reflect the diversity of modern Britain, and that schools are appropriately supported in delivery of this education for diversity.

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Cities as a lens to the world?

This article features the work of a Tide~ group exploring the potential of a focus on cities as a lens to global learning that can help us provide opportunities, in the context of the new Key Stage 3 Curriculum, for learners to engage with complex global issues.

This is an annotated contents list that provides brief insight into each element of the group's work and provides direct hyperlinks to the relevant section. We have chosen to number the sections for ease of navigation and as a possible route through the materials, but we anticipate that users will also find their own routes. You can also link from the diagram.

content diagram links links links links links links

1. The idea
Cities as a Lens to the World is an Internet based resource developed by members of the Tide~ network. It offers a gateway to begin unlocking the potential of cities for exploring and better understanding global learning. At the heart of this project is the idea that;

Cities are a lens to global learning and can help us to engage with
complex global issues by starting with commonality.

This is our Big Idea. SECTION 1 includes a background paper called “From the city…to the world ~ cities as a lens to global learning”, that explores some of the thinking behind our idea. It puts forward the argument that:

‘Cities and urban areas are now the dominant context in which young people play out their lives and negotiate their learning. As educators it is essential to better understand the nature of this contextual environment. But beyond the need to better understand cities for their own sake, cities provide more tangible access points for our understanding of wider society. They are the primary means through which we conduct our increasingly globalised and interdependent lives, acting as a microcosm of society; a metaphorical window on the world. To better understand the city is to better understand the world.’

pdf This section also includes the consultation document “Cities as a lens to the world” and a stimulus that gets us thinking about the surprisingly complex question “What is a city?

2. Starting Points

pdf Section 2 offers some “Quick start stimuli” to get you started. These have been developed with teachers and were devised to allow us (as teachers and pupils) to ‘start with what we know’. They could be used to raise debate within a staff team or as start-up activities for students.

They have also be used as a stimulus for group work in form time.

3. A learning framework
Cities are complex things, as are global issues. To open up this complexity we worked with teachers to develop tools that might aid our learning and understanding. Our energies became quickly focussed around a ‘real-life’ framework tool developed by the South Africa Cities Network (SACN). The SACN is a group of 9 cities that have been sharing the challenges and opportunities of rebuilding and developing cities in post-apartheid South Africa.

This section shares their framework and a version that teachers have interpreted and adapted for use in the classroom.

pdf SACN Framework’ shows 3 stimulus sheets that help to understand the framework as used in South Africa.

These explain in simple terms:

  • What does it consider?
  • What makes up the ‘whole picture’?
  • How might we measure cities?
pdf If you are interested in how this has been applied in South Africa, there is an additional slide that considers the ‘SACN in action’. This shows how the SACN have used their framework to help compile a report on the 9 cities using it.

The full report ‘SACN State of the Cities 2006’ is also available and includes some useful depth and case studies for those wishing to explore South African cities in more detail.

The teachers who worked through the SACN materials found it to be a very useful tool, but all raised the challenge of it being too complicated for students to access. We set them the challenge of coming up with a more accessible framework for use in the classroom and they produced a ‘Case study enquiry’ framework. It is offered as a stimulus to be adapted.

4. City Case Studies
In order to demonstrate how we might begin to access cities, we chose 6 cities from around the world and applied the case study enquiry to each of them. This exercise revealed the wealth of material that is freely available for using cities as a lens, but also raised questions about relevance for young learners and ease of interpretation.

This section presents the 6 case studies as a completed enquiry with short narratives and direct web-links to sites that we found useful in thinking through the questions. Some are more complete than others and this is the nature of information availability, influenced by language and attitudes to public information, amongst other things.

The 6 cities are:

  1. pdf Stockholm (Sweden)

  2. pdf Nairobi (Kenya)

  3. pdf Mumbai (India)

  4. pdf Cape Town (South Africa)

  5. pdf Birmingham (UK)

  6. pdf Curitiba (Brazil)

5. Cross-curricula planning
During open sessions with other teachers and in a Tide~ conference workshop, we trialled various different ideas using cities as a focus for cross-curricula planning. This section shares the process of developing two of these ideas into cross-curricula activities.

City Vision Activity’ uses the idea of cities creating a vision for themselves and their people. It asks what we would create in our own vision and then explores how the SACN framework might be useful in de-constructing that vision. What does it mean on the ground? How would we make it happen? Where are we now? What might we learn from others? The activity incorporates many different learning styles and numerous opportunities for real cross-curricula, inter-departmental planning.

Cities in Common Activity’ extends the idea of ‘starting with what we know’ and develops the idea of commonality as a route to accessing cities and global issues. The activity was based upon using wooden block cities as a stimulus, but could use many other forms of representation such as videos, photographs, travel brochures, websites etc. By starting with commonality the activity demonstrates how it is possible to move from the familiar (the idea of a city) to the less familiar (complex global issues) through the lens of the city. Teachers felt this was a particularly good activity for scaling up from the local to the global, whilst still recognising the global in our own locality.

6. Links ~ useful websites
In researching the cities work, we have come across several websites that we feel are particularly useful for teachers and students. This section compiles some of the most ‘useful websites’ that we have come across so far. There is a brief narrative about each and some include specific links to recommended content.

Many teachers have helped to inform the work on this project through the open sessions and the conference workshop. The core group have been particularly helpful and we would like to thank those members in particular:

Helen Griffiths
John Hopkin
Darius Jackson
Angela Crane
Darryl Humble
Scott Sinclair
Rob Bowden

In addition we would like to thank Helen Griffiths for her help in developing and piloting the case study enquiry.

Exploring cultural identities through art

Sue Wilkie
Head of Art at Shenley Court School in Birmingham. She visited The Gambia as part of the study visit course in 2004.
Sue reflects upon the potential for art as a tool for exploring complex ideas and perceptions about identity


Cultural practices, especially the purposeful making of things, embody our values and, I would argue, are the basis of the good mental health of a society. These practices help contribute to an individual and collective sense of identity and citizenship.

Art [including craft and design] is a kind of thinking/making which enables people to form and develop their identity. It is a self-affirming activity which helps us to interpret, think about, add to or challenge our cultural life.

Low self-esteem and negative behaviour [in other words, poor mental health] are rife in many schools. Poor self-esteem is not only self-destructive but also fosters reckless stewards for the future. Those who face the brunt of society's inequalities internalise their problems more than ever before. Those who work with them, such as teachers, face difficult challenges.

I went to The Gambia to find evidence of "boat building". This is a term I have come to use which originates from the film Whale Rider. The building of a boat is analogous for how the Maori people in the film not only survive, but also strive to develop in a truly sustainable way.

In The Gambia I found many people with a profound sense of place. National identity had been formed through the struggle against colonialism. It seemed to be reinforced by people's awareness of what had already been lost, and what is now at risk in environmental terms

The Gambia's relative economic unimportance in global terms has meant that people's sense of cultural identity is strong. There is not the saturation advertising that we have, nor is there the commodification of every aspect of daily life that goes along with it. There is, however, ample evidence of making; is this what sustains and develops Gambian culture and therefore people's mental health?

People make their own visual statements [eg through their clothing, particularly Gambian women]. The fabrics are a visual feast. There is a spirit and creativity which is outside the Western logo/lifestyle/brand identity.
People spend a far greater proportion of their time talking to each other. I spoke to many, many artists/craftspeople. Their understanding was not only of coastal erosion, biodiversity and other pressing environmental issues, but also about the importance of celebrating your traditions and innovating from that understanding. At Tanje Museum I met a weaver who talked about people who don't know their symbols being like "a bird flying with no eyes".

I spotted three obvious pressures on this sense of 'cultural well being':

a stereotyping of what tourists want [crocodiles, elephants etc] and which contributes to the continued stereotyping of Gambians and The Gambia. Selling your identity to earn a living distorts, and imports damaging values. A wealth of talent is forced into producing cheap imitations of a former culture. Through ASSET [The Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism - see] carvers had taken part in a workshop with a leading artist and produced fabulously creative pieces. There is undoubtedly a market here and elsewhere for original artworks - niche tourism?
for many the hard economic realities leave little room for personal work. People mostly make things because they have to. However, everyone I met was innovative in their approach and either did their own work or aspired to;
the Gambian Art National Curriculum appears to be modelled on the British one. It starts with still life! This is importing alienation, teaching children to lose their identity rather than develop it. M Ceesay, artist and educator, runs Saturday schools. His aim is to ensure "Gambian children are not left behind, while salvaging some form of identity in the face of rapacious globalisation."

Does the process of making contribute to my own wellbeing?

Does it contribute to wider social and environmental wellbeing?

What symbols do I need to say who I am and where I belong?

All children, but particularly those from the bottom of the economic heap here in the UK, need the same opportunities. Their parents are often at sea in the left overs of consumer society - a sea of fake labels and fast food. They are outside the extravagant lifestyles of the dominant culture. Global markets have exported many manual jobs. The class solidarity which provided identity and values has been eroded. Art and culture is sold as a lifestyle commodity. A lack of a sense of place is no accident.

The act of making is self-affirming. We can learn a lot from a culture where the West's hierarchical division between art and craft is not understood: which has a strong visual language, one that belongs to human beings.
We too have a highly literate visual culture. Advertising permeates every public space and much of our private space. The messages are constructed in ever more sophisticated ways. Are we becoming 'human buyings'? Are we what we buy?

We need to teach our children to decode these messages so that they can construct their own. For them to have an identity and culture that builds a sense of citizenship, they need to have their own symbols.
By sharing my experiences with Gambian colleagues I have come to appreciate the lost world of humane values embodied in cultural practices, before profit was all. We can work together to enable children to read and contribute to visual language; to know their cultural roots; to support the retention of a strong identity in the face of the 'unstoppable forces at the gate.'

Thinking through making: Art and sustainable development

Mark Riley

Mark is an arts educator based in Birmingham, and helped co-ordinate the Tide~ arts and sustainable development 'Think group'.

This article shares some thoughts about that experience, and is supported by a downloadable paper from the group, 'Human beings or human buyings?'

For more on Mark’s work see his website

“To get to the product the participant has to think through the idea, make some sense of it and then share this with others.”



In Exploring cultural identities through art Sue Wilkie shared her reflections on the role of culture and global education.

A group of teachers, educators and arts workers came together to discuss the ideas in that article.

Initial group discussions occupied the overlap between Sustainable Development, Education and Art. Thinking revolved around what art and culture can contribute to personal, social and environmental wellbeing, locally and globally … and how this might translate into educational practice.

Taking creative risks, making crucial connections A first challenge arose: to focus on some key ideas contained within the mass of stuff which was coming up. And so, we set a course and headed for “over there somewhere.”

This approach may seem vague, but it holds a core idea. The group recognised that the process was as valuable as the end product: to develop creative fresh thinking we needed to take risks and trust in our own learning process. We wanted to apply the theoretical ideas we were exploring to the way we were working as a group.

As well as thinking about the process itself, a consideration of the relationships between core concepts was also key to our work. Arts and education practise does not always integrate with sustainable development. These concepts included wellbeing and interdependence. We visualised this as a nesting system, interconnecting the wellbeing of the self, the local and the wider world, with the health of each of the systems dependent on that of the others.

Human activity is a subset of the human [social] environment, which is in turn a subset of the natural environment. Each subset relies on the larger set in order to exist. Each larger set relies on the health of its subsets in order to sustain its wellbeing. [An individual’s wellbeing is similarly dependent on larger systems, but individual wellbeing also impacts on them]

At this stage, we also looked further into the relationships between art, education and sustainable development. On the one hand we discussed whether art and education could exist without sustainable development – but could sustainable development exist without the other two? On the other, sustainable development is about change and transformation, and this can also be true of arts and education. All three help us make meaning of the world, developing a sense of self and being, place and belonging, sharing a set of ideas and values.

“Sustainable development is about change and transformation, and this is also true of arts and education.”

Thinking through making

After pushing and pulling these ideas out, creative activity helped evolve the group’s thinking. A large montage of words and drawing was created to show our responses to the ideas. This process drew out two overriding subjects, that of transformation, and that of being human.

Our next move was to take these ideas through a making process, and in doing so develop our sense of ‘thinking through making’. This is where an idea is brought to a creative activity, with the intention of producing a product.

What is important here is that, in order to get to the product, the participant has to think through the idea, make some sense of it, and share this with others. This process is circular, stimulating further thinking and alternative ideas.

We tried this out by answering the question ‘what does transformation look like?’ - using different materials and objects. The process worked extremely well, expressing meanings through associations, different viewpoints and effectively documenting the journey.

Sculpting the future

From this we drew on works of social sculpture, which involves people working together to make meaning and objects. Choosing the humble shopping bag as our medium, we chose the theme of “Bags of being or bags of buying?” and let loose our ideas on an unsuspecting workshop group of British and South African teachers at the June 2005 Tide~ conference.

After some initial reluctance the participants worked together to create a room size sculpture, transforming shopping bags into expressions of identity, culture and globalisation.

The feelings that you get from this process vary. It has been liberating, and sometimes frustrating, to explore thoughts and ideas and express them visually, in a way that does not require traditional artistic skills.

This, of course, can be challenging for the educator, because you are not quite sure where the results can end up, and so requires a degree of flexibility, risk taking and of trust in your facilitation skills. This trust should also be present in the management of the setting, contributing to a creativity environment.

We have developed a paper which sets some challenges for teachers, artists and educators to chew over, and invites them to take these ideas further. We are still on course for 'over there somewhere', so come and join us on the path. Take a look at the project paper, grab some simple materials and have a play.

“Bags of being, or bags of buying?”

People who care little about themselves are reckless stewards of the future. Art [by which I mean art, craft and design] is a kind of practical thinking which enables people to find a sense of place. A self affirming cultural activity which can contribute to changing us and our world in a sustainable way.

Bag of buying

Globalised culture, saturation advertising and the commodification of every aspect of daily life. Branded identity is dehumanising.
Environmental, social disaster in the making – well documented, but also personal, individual disasters - the more we consume the emptier and more meaningless we become.

Bag of being

b Subvert the label, use it to discover your identity and share it. – the process of self realisation and sense of place begins.
b The act of making is self affirming. You contribute to the culture, reinforce your identity through the thinking use of techniques, and image making.

Extracted from notes from a presentation to ITE students by Sue Wilkie,
Bartley Green Technology College

Human beings or human buyings?

pdf Download the project paper

Learning today with tomorrow in mind

~ Thinking about sustainable schools

This conference was held in November 2007. It looked at the educational challenges presented by sustainable development and climate change:

  • one year in to the national framework for sustainable schools,
  • at the start of the Year of Food and Farming 2007-8.

The conference included sessions on:

Workshops shared creative work by teachers on global sustainability themes


Introductory session

Opening the day, Scott Sinclair, Director of Tide~, talked of the need to provide space for practitioners to come together, plan, think and find optimistic ways of moving forward in the context of sustainable development and climate change.

As a profession, this especially meant space to think about the educational challenges. In the rush to be doing things about burning issues like climate change, we were perhaps not taking enough time for this.

All this was taking place in the current context of the DCSF Sustainable Schools Framework, but curriculum change was ongoing, and there was also a need to “be aspiring towards the next generation of support for schools.”

The sustainable schools framework, one year on

What have we been learning? What do we still need to learn?
Ceri Bowen and Marian White, Rookery Primary School, Birmingham

These members of the Developing a sustainable school group shared their experiences of starting work in response to the framework, and questions which had arisen for them.

rookery school

They had taken the global dimension as an appropriate starting point for their inner-city school, working in partnership with a school in New Delhi to explore three main themes: global warming, food and water.

Finding out that children in another country were concerned about similar issues was empowering for some children: “if children all over the world are doing things about this, we really can make a difference.”

Children in the partner school had also offered some challenges to learners at Rookery: “is it true that you have never planted a tree before?”

As Business Manager at the school, Marian found that children were able to initiate practical changes to the school’s practices which had previously proved difficult: “I am really confident that with children behind me, leading in many ways, we can make changes.”

In fact, one of the challenges for the school was how the pace of change could keep up with children’s high expectations. Working more effectively together on this, as a whole school, would be key to the next stage on the school’s journey.

For a copy of Ceri and Marian’s Powerpoint, including supporting notes, click here

Responding to climate change
Rukhsana Bentley, Chandos Primary School, Birmingham

Rukhsana welcomed the new Tide~ discussion paper Climate change ~ the educational implications, as both a teacher involved in the climate change seminar programme, and a member of the Climate X-change project.

Welcoming the paper, and drawing on her own school’s experiences, she spoke of the need to put children at the heart of learning about climate change, and of developing a school ethos where children “can feel they can talk about issues openly, about things in their daily lives, in their own homes, in the wider world.”

Finding space for talk also meant space for children to offer their different perspectives on the world, and to start coming to terms with some of its difficulties: “while it may be important at times to break it down, and show that children can do something about even the biggest issues, this is not just something where you can simply tick a box.”

Developing work on climate change themes had proved the start of a professional learning journey, an inspiration to take risks and run with children’s ideas more freely: “children have little power, but this is a real issue and they will face real issues in their lives … we need to build on what is important in children’s lives and let them take us on a journey with them.”


pdf Download paper

Christina Walker and Aman Doggar, Let’s Talk climate change group

As young people involved in the Management Committee of this project, Christina and Aman shared something of their group’s thinking and activities, and once again affirmed that “Young people want to understand issues, and not just do things: they want to think about why as well as what.”

This included “valuing each other’s perspectives, despite different backgrounds, and gaining confidence by debating hot topics.”

For Christina and Aman’s PowerPoint presentation, click here


The Year of Food and Farming: contributing to the challenge
Bill Graham, Director, Farming and Countryside Education

“When all is said and done, there is more that is said than done”

Offering this saying as food for thought, Bill outlined the aspirations of the 2007-8 year of Food and Farming, including the proposal that all young people have an entitlement to some key experiences:

  • to see where food is grown;
  • to have the opportunity to grow food themselves;
  • to learn cooking as a life skill.

He outlined how food and farming issues offer opportunities for schools; for an understanding of local and global sustainable development and of the wider world. For example, questions about climate change or biofuel production connect to burning issues about food production and food security.

logo For more on the Year of Food and Farming, click here

The Bill Scott Learning as sustainable development challenge

“Sustainable development, if it is going to happen, is going to be a learning process. It certainly won’t be about 'rolling out' a set of pre-determined behaviours.”

Professor Bill Scott, University of Bath

Ben Ballin, Tide~ global learning

Introducing the challenge and the ideas behind it, Ben outlined Professor Bill Scott’s description of two complementary approaches to education for sustainable development: ESD1 and ESD2.

  • ESD1 involves promoting informed, skilled behaviours and ways of thinking, “where the need for this is clearly identified and agreed.”
  • ESD2 ~ could be described as Learning as sustainable development and involves building learners’ capacity to think critically, test ideas, explore contradictions and “make sound choices in the face of the inherent complexity and uncertainty of the future.”

Ben argued that it is tempting to see ESD1 as having more substance, but “durable and long-lasting change will only come about because people can think for themselves about the problems and opportunities the future will bring.”

In that context, and bearing in mind the future needs of those learning now, “questions about sustainable development are unlikely to go away.” The Bill Scott challenge offers an opportunity to anticipate those needs, and to begin to think through their implications for schools and for policy.

For Ben’s PowerPoint presentation summarizing the challenge, click here

For Bill’s presentation at the Autumn 2006 Tide~ conference, click here

Responding to the challenge

An invited panel offered some thoughts on the Bill Scott challenge, and the discussion was then opened up to the conference as a whole.

“There needs to be a balance between telling young people how to ‘be sustainable’ in order to begin to make changes in our communities, and engaging them in the thinking that will enable them to make sound decisions for themselves. He [Bill Scott] suggests that ‘our long-term future will depend less on our compliance in being trained to do the ‘right’ thing now, and more on our capability to analyse, to question alternatives and to make our own decisions when we need to.”

Becky Link, in Primary Geographer Magazine

Anne Finlayson, Education Commissioner at the Sustainable Development Commission talked of the need for a “fresh attitude to the idea that people can make a step change towards sustainable development,” which draws on the “values systems, diversity and ability to learn how to learn that schools have.”

ESD1 raised questions for Anne about how much we really do know. For example, when we add together all the 'environmentally friendly' actions which are commonly advocated, do they make a big difference? Do we know what impact an increase in recycling rates would have on climate change? Or are these really acts of faith more than understanding?


She expressed reservations about 'hearts and minds' approaches, which often assume that those setting the agenda know best, and that people do [or should] all share the same values.

Perhaps it was not so much ‘fresh thinking’ as a ‘fresh attitude’ that was most needed: “valuing diversity, with people developing their own practice: respecting people, their rules and attitudes … More than anything, absolutely believing that most people would – with goodwill and the opportunity to do so – start to develop do-able actions and solutions that they personally can live with, and that their communities can live with.”

In this, Anne pointed out that there is much that civil society can learn from schools, not least their “emphasis on value systems, diversity and the ability to learn how to learn … and their attitude that you do not always need to wait for a policymaker in order to do the things which matter.”

Becky Link [Schools Education Manager, Severn Trent Water], talked about her ‘quest’ with others on the West Midlands Sustainable Development Liaison Group to “support and enable schools and communities to debate the issues and make sustainable development meaningful in their own settings.”

This meant “a balance of ESD1 [because children need to see their actions can have a positive effect, in order to feel motivated] and longer-term learning which puts learners at the heart of decision-making now, and values the contribution of young people to decisions which will have to be made in the future.”


Working with others at a regional level had reminded her that “we are more powerful together than individually.”

As a teacher at Chandos Primary School, Birmingham Rukhsana Bentley stressed the need for children to talk through issues together, and to develop a sense of respect.

“Children are not always talking about these things at home. Schools need to prepare them, especially through working as groups with other children. It is hard for them to go into complex issues without building on what they themselves know and think, and expressing those ideas in a way which their children will understand. As schools, we need to push on children speaking and listening with each other. This might involve things as simple as looking at the news together every day, and talking about it.”

“Respect for the environment has a link to how children respect each other and adults. Teachers’ relationships with children also need respect and open-ness, rather than being about pushing answers. That experience will stay with children throughout their lives, and help them: it is not an easy world.”

Bill Graham, Director, Farming and Countryside Education, wondered if the language of sustainable development, and even the term itself, were a barrier for ourselves and young people. “How do we articulate things in the first place?”

He raised questions about “the relationship between child development and an understanding of our world, and about how values about the world start … including at the very early stages of childhood.”

He felt that the eight Sustainable Schools doorways were a 'backward step' in comparison to the Holland Report’s original seven Key Concepts, and asked “did we work hard enough to develop what those concepts meant in real contexts, such as food and water?”

Jo Flynn [Deputy Director, Science Learning Centre, Keele] made a strong case for the new KS3 Science Curriculum as a vehicle for sustainability education and critical thinking skills.

She reminded us that there is a “real debate taking place about what Science offers, and what it means to have a more scientifically literate society, which is able to deal with the complexity of the future.”


Jo had adapted Bill Scott’s words to cross-refer to the new curriculum, and suggested that both ESD2 and Science education involve “building learners’ capacity:

  • to think critically about what experts say;
  • to test [sustainable development] ideas;
  • to explore the contradictions inherent in [sustainable] living
  • and to make sound choices in the face of the inherent complexity and uncertainty of the future.”

As part of the debate about Science, educators were “now having to confront the reality that Science is not a fixed body of knowledge. We’ve always known that secretly, but not necessarily shared this in schools. We are now having to say to young people that there are questions which Science can’t answer, or even begin to address.”

Responses from the conference

What opportunities might there be for …

arrow creativity about Year 6/7 transition? [ie the sustainability of a learner’s experience]
arrow Primary and Secondary children and teachers working together and learning from each other?
arrow cross-departmental working?
arrow building on existing curricula and level descriptors? Especially in key subject areas such as Science, Geography and Citizenship?
arrow making connections to new curricular developments, especially the KS3 review?

What are the implications for the culture, leadership, scale and structure of schools?

What sort of assessment would be 'fit for purpose' in this context?

How do we view the new Ofsted SEF questions on sustainable development and sustainable schools?

Might we need some new key concepts for sustainable development? … or global learning?

How can we demonstrate the value of critical thinking approaches for teaching and learning? [Especially to DCSF, as part of preparing citizens for the future].

Moving forward:

arrow Are we talking about contradictions … or conflicts?
arrow Is this a good time for this debate?
arrow Is the Bill Scott Challenge a good idea?
arrow Is this really just about good education?

Workshops ~ responding to the Bill Scott challenge

Afternoon workshops picked up on challenges and discussions from the previous session, in the context of specific themes and areas of interest.

They explored:

- how the kind of ideas we had been talking about might translate into practical priorities;

- what our work was offering to these challenges;

- what these challenges were offering us.

There were five workshops, focusing on Science, Geography, the whole school, the outdoor classroom and food & farming.


Facilitated by Graham Jackson, Association for Science Education

Key points:

It is important to give children the tools to learn themselves.
Where possible, critical thinking and problem solving skills [relating to ESD2 could be facilitated by group work rather than whole class work, which can be more directive and focussed on `the answer.’ Less engaged students are often more focussed when in small groups, working on problem solving activities. They also tend to be more communicative with each other and with adults in these contexts
a There are great opportunities for planned and resourced use of the outdoor learning environment. For example, school grounds and playgrounds can be designed to help learning about sustainability.
a Role of emotion – children need to see that teachers care about the issues.
a There is a role for special events – teachers can feel less constrained by the syllabus, and input from outside the school can be provided.
a We need to work with what we have. There are some settings and classes in which achieving learning is in itself a challenge, let alone stretching the envelope of that learning.


Facilitated by Steve Rogers, School Improvement Advisor, Shropshire

Key points:

a The concept of “sustainable development literacy” seems helpful.
a There is a need for the co-ordination of the sustainability agenda across a school [this is especially the case with Secondary Schools]. For example, teaching in Geography needs to complement not replicate themes in Science, Technology, History etc, Citizenship Programmes of Study … and to be co-ordinated with any programmes such as Eco-Schools, Healthy Schools etc.
a Issues like climate change and alternative technologies need a co-ordinated cross-curricular approach, eg between Geography and Citizenship.
a Does ESD1 need to include “learning about sustainable development”? Geography does contain such a body of knowledge [eg investigating climate change requires an understanding about the greenhouse effect].
a The revised level descriptors at levels 4 and 5 make little reference to sustainability: we need to be wary of this implying that only more able and older children are capable of dealing with sustainable development.

The whole school

Facilitated by Sue Fitzjohn, former head, St John’s CE First School, Kidderminster

Key points:

a The importance of the headteacher & senior managers valuing ESD, recognising its worth; being proactive and exploring ways with colleagues to ensure that space is made within the curriculum.
a In large secondary schools it may be useful to make someone responsible for getting to know all colleagues; developing a register of people’s strengths, capabilities and interests; enable cross-departmental links to be extended.
a Teachers and/or other staff are needed to champion ESD; to challenge their peers [eg those who say no time, no room in curriculum]; to work with colleagues to develop a common challenge across subject boundaries eg: a cross-curricular theme around water, food and drink.
a Whole school working could be at the heart of the community; schools sharing experiences and reconnecting parents and other members of the community with the learning process inherent in sustainable living.
a We need to look to developing a whole school culture where it is recognised that the learning process throughout life is for everyone; pupils and adults continually learning along side each other in this ever-changing world.
a We need to recognise that pupils are empowered through ESD. Pupils are often aware of and passionate about new developments; adults learn alongside pupils. Teachers do not know everything, there is uncertainty; we should involve experts to deliver information and challenge.

The outdoor classroom

Facilitated by Andrew Simons, Centre of the Earth, Birmingham

Key points:

The value of outdoor learning includes but goes beyond ESD – it offers ‘non metronomic learning’, powerful experiences, opportunities to develop life skills and take managed risks, scope for kinaesthetic learning.

How do we

a create the space in school?
a make accessible spaces and sensory experiences?
a design and manage it sustainably?
a allow children to manage and control it?
a encourage cross curricular links [eg by creating things through a range of subjects, and using the space at a variety of levels … including relaxation and reflection]?
a enable its use for hands-on experience?

There is useful support from Learning through landscapes

Food and farming

Facilitated by Malcolm Smith, Food for Life Partnership, Garden Organic

“Is children’s rational choice always sustainable?”

How might we make good use of this learning challenge?

a In our schools/our roles within education? To enable the ESD2 approach, teachers need to encourage inquisitiveness and enquiry approaches to learning, which lead to research. Activities need to be open-ended to encourage critical thinking. Group work, discussion and debate are crucial. The key to ESD2 is critical thinking. If parents and the wider community take this approach too, it is likely to be much more successful.

As a network? ICT could be useful in inter-agency cooperation. NGOs are often working on similar initiatives but separately. An e-group or blog could be established to encourage sharing between these organisations which teachers would find useful, and it would be good if teachers had time to put resources and experiences on a shared area which could be used by others.

ESD2 approaches could encourage links between primary and secondary schools, and it would be good to mix urban and rural schools through the subject of food and farming.


As part of current work rather than an additional burden? For ESD2 to become embedded in children’s approach, it will need to be used regularly across subjects throughout a school. Teachers need to see the connection between what they are doing and the ESD1/2 framework.

Subjects need to be pitched at young people’s own level, in order to gain their interest. These should generally be related to real experiences, and food is a good place to start. By using this approach a subject can be widened, and then young people can begin to make informed decisions and choices.


Morning workshops shared creative work by teachers on global sustainability themes

Climate X-change – children using ICT to share ideas

Stephanie Davies, West Midland Broadband Network and Sabera Miah, Starbank Primary School


Consumption and waste – a global approach

Rob Bowden, Tide~ Centre and kNOw trash/Eden project group


Water issues ~ as a starting point for awareness of global sustainability

Becky Link, Severn Trent Water and Sarah Adams, Barston Education Centre

For details of Tide~/Severn Trent Water pack on Water issues click here

See also

Enabling whole school change - in response to “sustainable schools.”

Sam Bernardini, Ladygrove Primary School, Ceri Bowen and Marian White, Rookery Primary school

For Ceri and Marian’s presentation to the conference click here

Carbon trading in the classroom – sharing a new creative online tool for schools across Europe to explore carbon trading

Davina Allen, BRIDGES Centre and Hugh Wright, Epping Forest Field Studies Centre