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Lucy’s Senior Associate Sue James and Teach the Future battle to prepare all students to face the effects of climate change

Sue is primarily involved in the youth-led Teach The Future (TtF) campaign, as a member of the Adult Advisory Board.

TtF is a really strong national, and international, youth-led campaign calling for reform of our formal education system at all levels, it is calling on the government to actively demonstrate commitment to supporting learners to have the best possible opportunity to gain the knowledge, skills and competencies to address these massive sustainability challenges. You can find out more detail on the campaign asks here.

A TtF student says: “The education system is currently failing to prepare my generation to face and mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. It will be us who have to live with the consequences of inaction therefore, our education should prepare us to adapt to the climate crisis, empower us to contribute to its solutions and enable us to achieve climate justice. It’s a disgrace that it isn’t currently doing this. The presence of climate justice education in optional subjects is not sufficient; it has to be embedded throughout as a core part of our curriculum.”

Sue comments on the initiative: “The general ambition to have climate and ecological education much more embedded in many aspects of education is a crucial point: students would approach university with a good grounding in these critical issues and we could at the same time improve knowledge out there in the wider community.

Running parallel to this is also the University and College Union Green New Deal, which provides a bargaining and negotiation framework for trade union members to call on their education institutions to make whole-institution changes in the curriculum as well as all aspects of institutional operations. It aligns well with TtF as an institution focussed staff lobbying tool. 

Teach the Future is one of many SOS-UK campaigns. SOS-UK is a charity set up by students and staff at NUS in 2019 in response to the climate emergency and ecological crisis. They campaign for change, supporting students and staff to call for action and change, and also work with students, staff and organisations to make the change they are calling for. In terms of focussing on embedding climate education and sustainability in all aspects of the student learning experience, their Responsible Futures framework and accreditation programme aims to do exactly that. Universities or colleges work in partnership with their students’ unions to transform their education provisions in a meaningful way and with relevance to students’ academic disciplines. It calls for integrating Education for Sustainable Development in institutional strategies and policies, as well as seeking interventions to equip staff and educators with the knowledge, skills, competencies and confidence to innovate their curricular, it also requires institutions and their students’ unions to continuously monitor and evaluate the impact of these changes on students’ learning to ensure it is effective and progressive.

Tackling climate change is a topic that’s core to Lucy’s mission. The development of our Lady Margaret Road site for undergraduates is being designed to radically reduce our carbon emissions. The College holds two Gold Awards for the way it involves the whole community in reducing its carbon footprint, in recycling, and promoting non-car transport. In the autumn of 2019 it engaged the whole College in a workshop on its environmental policy, broadly defined, with expert speakers on the reduction of carbon emissions, current research initiatives, sustainability and appropriate governance. As a result, it is considering how best it might off-set its carbon footprint, and is committing to some ambitious targets to achieve across the “green” agenda.

The College is currently working towards a collaboration with Sue and Teach the Future so that students would be able to approach university with a good grounding in these critical issues.

About Sue James

Sue James trained at the Architectural Association and worked in private practice in West Wales. In parallel she has provided consultancy services with a focus on the public realm and is a founding member of the Trees and Design Action Group. She has also advised Ecobuild (now Futurebuild) on content for the conference and seminar programme for many years. She has lived and worked in London, Pakistan, Iraq and New Zealand for half her working life but she decided to stop flying and focus on learning a realistic understanding of our predicament as a species. Sue’s life now is centred on how we can make change happen.