This strategy sets out to respond to recommendations for education from the Committee for Climate Change, the Dasgupta Review, Green Jobs Taskforce report and supports the delivery of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and Net Zero Strategy.

It includes how we will work in the context of:

  • The Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius and includes measures relating to climate change education
  • The IPPC 2022 report
  • UK Government legislation to meet net zero by 2050.
  • Brighton and Hove declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2018
  • Brighton and Hove draft Carbon Neutral 2030 programme
  • Brighton and Hove Youth Climate Survey
  • UNESCO World Biosphere Region Designation
  • UNESCO’s ‘ESD for 2030’ (Education for Sustainable Development) which sets out the key role of education in the successful achievement of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The Environment Bill which aims to deliver an environmental programme to protect nature and improve biodiversity, including through a target for species abundance for 2030, aiming to halt the decline of nature.
  • DfE Sustainability & Climate Change – A draft strategy for the education & children’s services systems November 2021
  • Decisions made at COP27

Why develop climate change, sustainability and environmental education in Brighton and Hove

The environment sustains all life on earth. It provides us with nourishment, our well-being and our inspiration. Our economy thrives on a healthy environment. A growing body of research tells us that time spent in nature provides physical and psychological benefits. Our personal and cultural identities are often tied to the environment around us. However, it’s impossible not to be deeply concerned about the unprecedented environmental, social, and economic challenges we face as a global society—from climate change and loss of species and habitats, to declines in social engagement, decreasing access to nature, a growing gap between the haves and have nots, and other threats to our health, security, and future survival.

Through our education programme, we aim to support school communities in learning extensively about the environment, in developing skills to investigate their environment, in making intelligent, informed decisions about how they can help take care of it in the face of climate change and in how they can support climate justice.

The vision

‘To use the power of education to advance environmental literacy and social engagement to contribute to a more equitable and sustainable future. We will work with young people, educators, community organisations, the council and relevant partners to promote a just and sustainable city where environmental and social responsibility drive individual, institutional, and community choices.’

The challenge and the opportunity

It is estimated that by 2030, the world population of 7 billion will demand three times as many resources as the planet can supply (One Planet Living® sustainability framework – Bioregional). Meeting the needs of our global citizens—ecologically, economically, culturally, spiritually, and more—requires understanding and creative problem solving. Environmental education (EE) including knowledge of sustainability and the impacts of climate change is a process that helps individuals, communities, and organizations learn more about the environment, and develop skills and understanding about how to address local and global challenges. It has the power to transform lives and society. It informs and inspires. It influences attitudes. It motivates action. EE is a key tool in expanding the environmental movement and creating healthier and more socially-engaged communities.

Through education we have the privilege to be able to engage directly with young people who are passionate about the natural world, want to do their best to protect it and can influence their wider communities. Through their learned and lived experiences within education, we will provide opportunities to develop a broad understanding of the importance of sustainability and the causes and impact of climate change.

It must be recognised that Climate Change is a complex issue that is woven into issues around social equity, economic status, environmental integrity and shared prosperity and there are no simple solutions to ‘solve’ climate change.

Any education on climate change and sustainability must recognise and examine these complexities but it must also be an education founded on hope and it must always be solution focussed.

The strategy will focus on school and collage learners of all ages and their families. It will focus on the importance of experiential, interdisciplinary education, on helping all learners develop problem solving and decision-making skills, and on understanding how to be an engaged citizen to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable society. The strategy lays out a philosophy and a plan for environmental education with an urgent focus on climate change education and sustainable practices to enable our children and young people to work to meet the needs of the present without compromising our ability to meet the needs of the future. We also aim to support schools in systematically moving their organisations towards a Carbon Neutral position by 2030.

We aim for the strategy to be embedded in the Brighton & Hove education and school system over a 2-year time-frame. This work will build on some important and good sustainability and climate change work that has been developed in Brighton & Hove settings and schools but recognises the need to increase and deepen this work.

The strategy also recognised that for environmental education to be impactful, students need a connection with nature and their local environment – this connection is not initially brought about by facts or knowledge, but rather by experiential learning, fostering awe and wonder about their world. A strong correlation has been found between nature connection and pro-environmental, pro-nature, health and wellbeing. We will therefore work with schools in finding significant opportunities within the curriculum which deepen children and young people’s connection with the environment.

This draft strategy takes an evidence-based approach and will inform a business case for continued funding. This strategy and its principles will inform a detailed action plan for delivery.

Guiding Principles for the Strategy

  • Following the IPCC report 2022, we recognise we are facing a global emergnency and we must act urgently.
  • A holistic approach that examines multiple overlapping areas of practice is required.
  • Climate Change is understood as a scientific fact and as personal, local, national and global issue
  • Pre-school/school education is vital for equipping all children and young people to live in a sustainable way as part of an inclusive, equitable and diverse society.
  • Climate change affects communities across the world in diverse ways and the experiences and needs of different groups must be considered and represented.
  • An intersectional approach needs to be taken that recognises how, for example, intersections with race, economic status and national origin affect the impact of climate change on individuals and societies.
  • Young people must be involved deeply in planning, decision making, the delivery of Climate Change work and in its evolution
  • School staff /pupils/community members/professionals working in areas of environmentalism and sustainability must be engaged with and included in the strategy.
  • There must be a balance between understanding the issues faced and supporting children/young people/staff/parents/carers with finding solutions to these issues
  • There should be an emphasis on sustainable change as opposed to one-off projects.
  • Emergent best practice for Climate Change indicates the need for an enquiry-based approach, collective problem solving, with all parties working in partnership.
  • A series of measurable outcomes and appropriate structures must be established for auditing and monitoring purposes (Stakeholder representation, curricula changes, well-being indicators, organisational changes, learning outcomes, resource savings).
  • The establishment of an Environmental Education Strategy Oversight Group including relevant sub-groups such as education leadership, school travel and curriculum development will ensure effective collective work with a unified vision
  • There will be a commitment to address inequalities in access to opportunities to participate in climate and environmental education of those with protected characteristics.
  • It will support the council’s work on addressing those at risk of disadvantage (both social/economic and nature deprivation), the green skills agenda and the priorities of the SEND Strategy.


The diagram below shows the main areas of Sustainability, Climate Change and Environmental Education work as applicable to early years, school and educational settings. Each area is detailed further below.

Key areas of work

Leadership and organizational commitment

Leaders, including Governors, should consider whether their existing values support environmental sustainability and consult stakeholders on how the values can be improved to ensure care for the environment is more explicitly incorporated. This will generate a commitment to develop policies and procedures that ensure that environmentalism is at the heart of the school’s work.

Environmental sustainability must be part of the school vision, reinforcing the commitment to developing and promoting practice throughout the school.

Sustainability, Climate Change and Environmental Education should be a key school strategic priority ensuring, in the long-term, it is embedded in the fabric of the school.

A whole school/trust approach to environmental sustainability, by definition, should encompass all aspects of school life, learning and management.

The Five Cs approach to sustainability offers an effective framework for strategic planning

  • Captaincy – leadership
  • Curriculum – teaching and learning
  • Campus- Buildings, energy, and grounds
  • Community- Inside and out
  • Culture (the way things are done)
  • Caring; the promotion of environmental education and sustainable behaviours seen as a key moral purpose

Curriculum development drawing effectively on local, national and global resources

The school’s curriculum is an embodiment of its vision and values. Treating environmental sustainability as a core value should lead to leaders as all levels and in all areas taking a keen interest in how this is covered in the curriculum.

We know that young people are anxious to create a greener, more sustainable world, and to tackle both the causes and impact of climate change. Through a better understanding of the facts, a greater appreciation of nature, and practical opportunities to participate in activities to increase climate resilience and enhance biodiversity, we will empower all young people to be truly global citizens, able to take positive steps to improve their local communities, their country and the planet, now and in the future. Through this process they will come to recognise themselves as changemakers.

In developing the curriculum, leaders should ask themselves:

Have pupils been consulted on their experience of the curriculum and teaching and learning on environmental sustainability?

How and when do pupils learn about the concepts of environmental sustainability, such as the impact of human activity on the climate and biodiversity?

How is environmental education planned across subjects and is collaboration between teachers encouraged?

How do pupils develop knowledge and understanding of their local environment and their place within it?

What part does outdoor learning  play?

Where does the curriculum foster curiosity and give pupils the opportunity to explore wider and global environmental issues?

How can pupils develop positive attitudes and behaviours towards the environment?

Does the curriculum best prepare this generation for the world in which they will live, laying the foundations for green technology skills and green careers?

Does the curriculum maintain an awareness of the implications of raising sustainability issues (such as eco-anxiety) and seek to foster a sense of hope through pro-environmental behaviours?

Does the curriculum teach the knowledge, skills and attitudes to live with and in a changing climate?

The curriculum should be framed around the following NAEE principles:

a) Care for oneself

This includes the development of skills to lead a productive and fulfilled life (economic viability) including basic skills, transferable skills to jobs, some specific job skills e.g. communication, team working, problem solving, working with change. There is also a Skills Bill going through government right now and green skills amendments have been accepted so far. In addition, thinking about care for oneself are the socio-emotional skills e.g. understanding and working on your own wellbeing and mental health, and relationships education. Nature-based wellbeing activities should be a key element of the curriculum. MIND promotes the 5 ways of Wellbeing which has been rolled out to schools through the Global Learning Project (2013-2018) and now through the British Council Connecting Classrooms projects (from NEF, Gov guidance 2008, NHS, Mind and many others). The 5 ways are: Give, Connect, Be active, Take Notice and Keep learning

b) Care for others

Care for others near and far includes how we all gain wellbeing from caring for others e.g. Give, Connect, & Take notice from the MIND 5 ways. These have been developed into Global Learning teaching materials: It can include developing understandings of global interdependencies, promoting justice, human rights and sustainable ways of living, and encouraging active engagement in local and global attempts to eradicate poverty and inequality (levelling up).

c) Care for the environment

Care for the environment includes learning about the environment (knowledge), learning in the environment (connecting) and learning for the environment (skills and agency). This requires approaches such as systems thinking, critical thinking, action learning and futures thinking. This is not just about turning off lights, or recycling but understanding the systems and decisions these are part of, and how a learner can progress to making informed decisions and take action on local and global emergencies. (UNESCO ESD for 2030:

Combining Care for oneself, others and the environment could look like this:

Care for self and others, near or far, means understanding that lives and communities in one locality are connected to lives and communities elsewhere, whether spatially (local-global), temporally (past, present and future) or through intersecting issues (gender equality, poverty, climate justice). These same interconnections and responsibility towards each other extend to all living things; human and planetary well-being are deeply interdependent.

This requires:

  • openness towards alternative perspectives and ways of seeing the world, and appreciation of global biodiversity.
  • recognition of the implications of past and present actions, and their impact on different communities and future generations
  • a willingness to act for equity and justice, and more sustainable futures.

Green skills and careers

It is critical young people not only have the ability to think and live sustainably, but also have the green skills that allow them to build careers and promote a Green Industrial Revolution. Schools should deliver programmes teaching the skills of the future, develop research and drive innovation to develop solutions to the climate crisis, and nurture future leaders.

Council and community engagement

  • The council and many environmental organisations in the community hold a substantial level of knowledge and expertise in supporting sustainability and environmental education. There are also many organisations which have already established programmes of environmental work which are having a significant impact on improving futures. It is vital this strategy brings these groups/programmes together with schools so their work complements and enriches school plans and practice. It is also vital that one of the key principles of this strategy is that the work of schools also has an impact on the life and behaviours of their community.

We will be working closely with Living Coast, the Brighton and Hove and Lewes Downs Biosphere project, to directly support their three key aims:

  • Conserve and enhance nature
  • Support sustainable human development
  • Promote environmental awareness, knowledge, learning and engagement

Training for Staff

For school staff to effectively implement an effective sustainability, climate change and environmental education curriculum, they require a substantial training and support programme. The necessary knowledge, skills and issues required to be taught are complex, multi-layered and potentially emotionally challenging. Teaching staff need to have a deep understanding of the wide range of issues they will be covering; scientific and geographical knowledge; skills in the teaching of PSHE and enquiry and access to quality resources. This strategy must include a strong focus on training.

Sustainable resourcing and estate management

A key measure of a school’s success in developing an effective strategy will be in its ability to significantly support the overall ‘Brighton and Hove Council Carbon Neutral by 2030’ strategy.

With significant support from the Local Authority a school should:

Engage with appropriate experts to produce a realistic (yet ambitious) Carbon Management Plan (CMP) that captures the key areas to target across all operational platforms (identifying capital costs and benefits accordingly). As a foundation to this plan they should establish what is measurable and create baselines against which targets to reduce carbon emissions could be set.

Follow the 7rs  Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Repair, Recycle, Recover

Support a circular economy approach

Identify sustainable forms of construction that limit the negative impact on the environment (during the construction process)

Implement incremental phasing (as contracts expire) across suppliers to more renewable sources

Investigate what can be usefully measured in terms of consumption and wastage

Establish a sustainable procurement approach

Aim to reduce consumption in all identified/targeted key areas including water

Review, audit and explore current supply chains and systems in order to reduce their carbon footprint (e.g. from air-freight usage)

Seek to use ethically and locally sourced products and food that is in season (where feasible)

Seek to reduce meat consumption;

Improve their system of waste removal; to reduce the quantity of waste from catering (both during the day and at after school functions)

Reduce water and energy usage

Develop, over time, a better understanding of the environmental impact of the School’s supply chain and endeavour to continually improve it

Develop a Supplier Sustainability Risk Assessment (RA) that identifies the suppliers that are most likely to create a large carbon footprint

Use the RA to prioritise which suppliers to engage with and when to look for alternatives

Ensure all budget holders are aware of the importance of sustainability and explicitly include a reference to it in the School’s Financial Handbook

To reduce the number of staff and pupils travelling to school by car (most notably in single occupancy vehicles)

Audit the carbon footprint of educational visits and review the Educational Visits Policy in order to achieve a reduction in carbon emissions. Schools should also consider voluntary carbon offsetting for school trips (particularly secondary trips abroad)



Learning from and connecting with nature

Early contact with nature plays an important role in developing pro-environmental values and behaviours. Time in nature is not just leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health, well-being and education. However, there is growing evidence that children are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. Without direct experiences in nature, research findings suggest that children are missing opportunities to enhance their health and well-being, and to develop responsible long-term environmental behaviour. Connection with nature and outdoor learning needs to be at the heart of the curriculum . Schools should therefore be aware of potential for this in their grounds, in the very local environment (i.e. walkable from their school) and within the city, including the beach and the South Downs.

Evidence of disconnect

In an increasingly urbanised world – with television, computers and extracurricular activities competing for time – fewer children have the opportunity to enjoy playing in nature. Nature-deficit disorder describes the detrimental effects on humans as a result of this increased divide between children and nature. Today, children are aware of the global threats to the environment, but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. A number of recent international surveys indicate that fewer children are experiencing nature directly, with the majority of children playing indoors more often than out; this has been exacerbated by young people’s experience of Covid. The surveys highlight that many young people are ‘glued to the virtual world’ and are far removed from nature, lacking knowledge of biodiversity and awareness of its importance. They conclude that further effort is needed to make nature more available to children, and to inform and empower a future generation of environmental champions.

The benefits of a childhood connection with nature

Many studies show the positive links between direct experiences in nature and children’s mental, emotional and physical health and well-being. The studies show that regular direct access to nature can:

  • increase self-esteem and resilience against stress and adversity
  • improve concentration, learning, creativity, cognitive development, cooperation, flexibility and self-awareness
  • prevent childhood obesity.
  • improve behaviour and motivation

Research has also shown that through positive experiences in nature, children will develop their love of nature and a foundation for the development of responsible environmental behaviour. Studies of adults who demonstrate a commitment to protect the natural world suggest that childhood experience with nature plays a critical role in determining life attitudes, knowledge or behaviours regarding the environment.

A number of authors talk about the importance of the middle years (6 to 12 years old) for the development of the child’s relationship with the natural world. This is a time where the sense of wonder of early childhood is transformed to a sense of exploration.

Research found that participation with nature before age 11 is particularly potent in shaping both environmental attitudes and behaviours in adulthood. This foundation of empathy and connection with nature may then extend into environmentally responsible actions and empowerment, as the child grows older and discovers opportunities to develop pro-environmental behaviours.

We need to allow children to develop their biophilia, love for the Earth, before we ask them to academically learn about nature and become guardians of it. It is therefore vital that at the heart of this strategy is a strong commitment from schools to extend and enrich young people’s opportunities to connect with nature.

Young people voice and agency

Research has found that by working together young adults can build collective power, create compelling new visions for the future, and thereby give voice to the hopes and aspirations of young adults in the face of a growing climate crisis. It is vital that this strategy places the voice of young people at its heart. The 2021 Youth for Climate Summit manifesto requested three key actions:

Meaningful Participation by youth in future climate negotiations, giving young representatives from around the world the chance to voice their lived experiences and ideas and make a real impact on international climate policy.

Capacity Building support: the provision of financial, administrative, and logistical resources to empower young people at the local level with the means to effectively express themselves on climate issues.

Funding: they urgently requested the allocation of public and private monies to support youth participation in decision-making on climate.

Brighton and Hove Council has already begun important work to respond to these requests at a local level through programmes such as the Youth Council and Youth Assemblies. This strategy must support and facilitate the development of this work and be shaped from the outset by young people’s needs, ideas and ambitions. Planned work within schools should always include, wherever possible, pupil voice.

Links to other strategies – anti-racist/disadvantaged

Sustainability and Climate changes are complex issues that are woven into issues around social equity, economic status, environmental integrity and shared prosperity; there are no simple solutions to ‘solve’ climate change. However, the work generated by this strategy must not shy away from addressing these complexities and it must be inclusive for all members of our community. To achieve this successfully, it must draw on the learning and principles of other key Council strategies

School policies founded on UN sustainable goals

The Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. The work of schools will benefit greatly from linking in with these goals in terms of setting appropriate targets, linking to successful work in these areas and access to relevant and up-to-date resources.

Outcomes of strategy

  • Determine a clear definition and purpose for the city’s education providers of what is meant by environmental education and what role the council plays in that, including an agreed vision.
  • Develop knowledge and confidence in the education sector with links to other strategies such as the Anti-Racist Schools Strategy alongside general upskilling of school staff.
  • Promote the work already taking place in relation to this work and support a programme that substantially develops the capacity, skills, knowledge and confidence of the education sector on sustainability and climate change and makes appropriate links to other strategies such as the Anti-Racist Schools Strategy
  • Support schools in becoming Carbon Neutral 2030 organisations
  • Maximisation of local, national and global resources to shape a structured and comprehensive environmental & climate educational programme for schools and youth in the city. Providing a hub of local resources, materials and training to support the teaching of environmental education including the central branding and hosting of resources.
  • Prepare the roll out of training for lead teachers including carbon literacy that builds on the UN programme, explores alternative programmes and includes training for prospective teachers.
  • Establishing an Environmental Education Strategy Oversight Group including relevant sub-groups such as education leadership, school travel and curriculum development
  • Address inequalities in access to opportunities to participate in climate and environmental education of those with protected characteristics. Supporting the council’s work on addressing those at risk of disadvantage (both social/economic and nature deprivation), the green skills agenda and the priorities of the SEND Strategy.