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Welsh Government's education response to climate change

Jane Hutt, Minister for Children, Education, Life Long Learning & Skills (DCELLS) released the following statement on 13th July to describe her department's response to the challenges and opportunities of climate change. It's very encouraging to see action and lead being taken by such an important function in government; the task now rests with us to work with national and local government to accelerate and tune provision so that education is teaches the skills needed for a low-carbon, sustainable economy - as though we believed it was both important and possible to do this. The Minister's comments follow:

I am pleased to use this opportunity to lend my support to the Welsh Assembly Government’s Sustainable Development and Climate Change agenda.

This Written Statement sets out how I will ensure that my Department moves forward on this critical agenda. Across Wales, services for children and learners of all ages have an important role in terms of managing our estates, engendering attitudinal change, and giving people the skills and behaviours they need to live, learn and work in a sustainable Wales.

To help set the context, the UK Climate Projections 2009 were released on 18 June, projecting a likely emission scenario for Wales where some climate change is inevitable due to past greenhouse gas emissions. The Welsh Assembly Government needs to plan and prepare for this, increasing our resilience and minimising our risk.

To give an indication of the scale of change, under the most likely scenario for summer times around 2050, we’ll see an increase in temperature of around 2.5ºC, but with a decrease in the rainfall of 16%. In short, Wales will have much hotter, drier summers than we’re used to. We’ll also need to prepare for wetter, milder winters.

 The Welsh Assembly Government’s Sustainable Development strategy, ‘One Wales: One Planet’ was published by the Minister of Environment, Sustainability and Housing on 22 May. Some of our key actions within ’One Wales: One Planet’ link with activities that we are proposing within the Assembly Government’s ‘Climate Change Strategy: Programme of Action’, which was published for consultation on 25 June.

The Assembly Government has a clear role in these agenda, but Local Authorities have the opportunity to occupy a key leadership role at a local level, and indeed many already do. They will have a role in helping to deliver the annual 3% carbon reduction targets.

This Written Statement sets out how I will ensure that my Department moves forward on this critical agenda. Across Wales, services for children and learners of all ages have an important role in terms of managing our estates, engendering attitudinal change, and giving people the skills and behaviours they need to live, learn and work in a sustainable Wales.

In Wales, we have a range of innovative and effective education policies that are intended to address the link between poverty and underachievement. Long-term, sustainable, effective initiatives like Flying Start, Integrated Children’s Centres and Foundation Phase will make a major contribution to ensuring children who may live in poverty have the support and developmental opportunities they may not get at home.

The Foundation Phase places great emphasis on using the outdoors to enhance children’s learning. Children gain their most powerful understanding of their natural environment through exploring it for themselves. Learning outside can also help to make issues like climate change much more relevant to children. It can help them to understand how natural material can be used as a renewable resource and to inform us all about what steps we can take to live life more sustainably.

Children and young people learn most effectively when they are involved in decisions about their learning. The School Effectiveness Framework promotes the involvement of children and young people as active participants in improving school effectiveness. It is designed to bring together existing programmes directed at improving learning and wellbeing. It will build on existing good practice in schools through development and collaboration

Youth Support Services have a very important role to play in assisting young people to access opportunities in training and education, employment and active citizenship. Improving outcomes in sustainable ways for all children and young people in Wales takes place through Children and Young People’s Plans through which local authorities and their partners work together to agree their priorities and delivery responsibilities.

We are committed to the principles enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets out the right of children and young people to have their opinion taken into account in any government matter or procedure which affects them.

We are preparing our young people and adult learners for a continually developing economy with a sustainable post-16 education system. Our Transformation policy will cater to the needs of learners and bring substantial further improvements to communities, employers and the economy. Where possible, we are ensuring that new network configurations are carbon-footprint neutral or reduce the carbon footprint. For example, we use mobile and remote access technologies to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of learning.

In partnership with DE&T, the Green Jobs Strategy will play a key part in shaping and driving the business opportunities associated with a move to a low-carbon, low-waste economy. In order to equip businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and take advantage of new opportunities in the green jobs sector, they need people with the right skills, to have access to appropriate training and robust and for recognised qualifications and accreditation to be in place.

Across the Department, the Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC) programme has enabled people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to promote a more equitable and sustainable world. It has been incorporated into the national curriculum, the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification, the Qualified Teacher Status Standards and Common Inspection Framework. We have given learners, practitioners, and inspectors the information they need to understand these issues.

Moving on to our education estates, reorganisation and asset utilisation are embedded within my flagship 21st Century Schools and post-16 transformation programmes. Reorganising the structure of educational provision will lead to a sustainable education system. The key challenge will be to generate local consensus around restructuring proposals

In combating climate change we recognise the importance of improved energy efficiency in educational buildings. Our capital investment programmes will support the delivery of well designed and operated educational buildings; ensuring incorporation of basic energy efficiency measures whilst maximising the use of renewable energy technologies, where appropriate. For example, at a new school in Carmarthenshire, Ysgol Dderwen, a new geothermal system is ready to be switched on, inspiring students about the positive benefits of sustainability in action. Our commitment to sustainable design is re-enforced by ensuring that all new school and college buildings funded, by the Welsh Assembly Government, meet the BREEAM excellent standard.

In 2008, HEFCW provided institutions with initial funding to enable them to develop Environmental Management Systems (EMS) that would cover all aspects of the institutions management. In addition, twenty two Further Education Institutions (FEIs) have had a Sustainable Procurement Assessment Framework (SPAF) undertaken. The SPAF review provides a first step for FEIs towards the achievement of the Green Dragon Environmental Standard.

We have used EU Structural Funding to enable investment in high quality, high impact Research and Development (R&D). Ministers have agreed priority areas for funding following consideration of the Assembly Government’s agreed strategic sectors, the latest RAE results and a detailed mapping exercise. One of the major areas of R&D funding is the Low Carbon Economy (including climate change mitigation and adaptation issues).

From this came the Low Carbon Research Institute (LCRI) which is being supported by the Welsh Assembly Government until 2013. The four main streams of activity are:

  • Low carbon energy generation, storage and distribution
  • Energy demand reduction including zero-carbon built environment, and work on large scale power generation.
  • An energy Graduate School
  • Partnerships with industry, research organisations and government. 

Furthermore, R&D funding has been given to the Climate Change Consortium Wales (CCCW) to undertake a strategic reconfiguration of climate change research in Wales and increase international competitiveness, with a view to achieving sustainability.

We are also investing in high-level research in the impact of climate change and bio-energy on sustainable agriculture and bio-fuels.

This Statement reflects some of the activities of DCELLS. However, I would like to re-emphasise the commitment across Cabinet to take a joined-up approach on Sustainable Development and Climate Change. As a result of this commitment, Wales is well placed to lead the way on acting on these important matters.


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