IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Teaching for sustainable futures

Research-informed, free professional development to help teachers embed climate change and sustainability into their teaching.

Welcome to our programme of free, research informed teacher professional development, Teaching for Sustainable Futures. The aim of this programme is to support all teachers, no matter what subject and age group they teach, to embed issues related to climate change and sustainability into their teaching.

On this page you will find our short film for all school staff, 'Looking to the Future: An Introduction to Climate Change and Sustainability in Schools' as well as links to our history and geography modules.  Later this year we will also launch modules in English, mathematics and science.

Do sign up for regular updates about our work.

Thank you for your interest in our work.

About the programme


How are we supporting teachers?

In this first phase, we have created a short film which introduces climate change and sustainability education to anyone working in a school.  This is an ideal resource to use in school training events and you can access both the film and some discussion prompts on this webpage.  We have also developed online professional development modules for teachers of geography and history (primary and secondary).  You can engage with these modules at any time and complete them individually or with your colleagues.  We recommend that you set aside about 90 minutes to complete a module but this does not have to be all in one go.  The modules include advice and support for teachers wanting to find meaningful ways to respond to the climate crisis in their teaching and they include films, information, activities and resources.   Note that in 2024 we will also release modules in English, mathematics and science.  You can access all the modules from this webpage.

What are our aims?

The aim of our programme is to help equip children and young people with the knowledge, skills and capabilities they need in a climate-altered world.  We do this by supporting teachers across all subjects and age phases to embed issues of climate change and sustainability in their teaching and by supporting everyone who works in a school to embed these issues in whole school practices.  

How do we define climate change and sustainability education?

We define climate change and sustainability education in broad environmental and social terms.  We recognise that there are many interconnected consequences of human impacts on our planet which include climate change and threats to biodiversity.  Climate change and sustainability education includes these broad environmental dimensions as well as social dimensions such as climate and environmental justice and the nature of human behaviour.  

Why are we interested in all subjects?

These are interdisciplinary issues and all subjects have valuable perspectives to offer.  History can help students understand the roots of the climate crisis in history; Food Technology can encourage students to consider where our food comes; English and Art can provide a space for students to envision different futures; Mathematics and Science can nurture an understanding of bio-diversity; Business and Geography can offer examples of living more sustainably.  These are just examples and all subjects have their own contributions to make.   Above all, we want young people to bring an environmental perspective to the way they look at the world, to see the rich possibilities that an understanding of humans as part of nature can offer and to engage with these issues with a critical eye.

What outcomes do we want for children and young people?

We want every child:

  • to have the agency and capabilities to act for the environment;
  • to be equipped to contribute to a socially just, equitable and compassionate world;
  • to experience a life-long connection with nature which enhances their physical and mental well-being;
  • to understand the planet as an interconnected system and their place in human and more than human communities.

We recognise that human activity is having a catastrophic impact on the Earth, which is materialising as climate change, devastating biodiversity loss, and persistent and growing inequality amongst humans, and between humans and the rest of the natural world. These impacts have accelerated to the point that we are now living in the Anthropocene, an epoch that is marked by the negative interference of human behaviour on planetary systems. In this context, we cannot continue with life as normal.

We know that many young people and their teachers care deeply about the health of the planet. We also know that this can lead to anxiety and that this is exacerbated if young people feel a sense of hopelessness. We are therefore committed to balancing honesty with hope in our work by exploring possible futures.

All our work is informed by the values of honesty, wisdom, respect, engagement, justice and hope. We need to be honest with young people and each other about the planetary crisis while acknowledging the limits of what we know with certainty. We will draw on others’ wisdom and be open to diverse ways of knowing. We will root our work in a deep respect for life on earth and engage dynamically with knowledge of the planet’s systems.

Fundamental issues of social justice, equity, inclusion and pluralism will be a constant feature of our work, as will more optimistic messages around adaptability and hope. These values have helped to shape the principles set out below around which we have designed our teacher development programme, Teaching for Sustainable Futures.

Our Teacher Professional Development Programme will be:

  • Empowering for teachers
  • Research engaged
  • Knowledge engaged
  • Pedagogically adventurous
  • Futures focused

Please note that we have made every effort to make sure our modules meet the standards of UCL’s Digital Accessibility Policy.  All the films in the modules have the option of subtitles, all non-decorative images have alternative text accompanying them, including in any downloadable resource we provide.

If you require any further assistance accessing our programme or have questions about its content, please contact us at climateeducation@ucl.ac.uk.

Looking to the future: an introduction to climate change and sustainability in schools

This film introduces some key ideas about climate change and sustainability and the way that schools can respond to these issues. It features contributions from teachers, school leaders, young people and academics. It would be an ideal film to show as part of a training event.  You can access some suggested discussion prompts below.

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/D3G22AJ2
Discussion prompts

Key concepts of climate change and sustainability education 

  • What do you understand by the phrase ‘citizens of the world’ and why do you think it is used in the film in relation to climate change and sustainability?
  • What might climate change and sustainability education include?

Climate change and sustainability education in the curriculum 

  • What different approaches to embedding issues of climate change and sustainability in the curriculum does the film introduce?  Which do you find most inspiring or applicable to your context?
  • Do you agree that climate change and sustainability are relevant across the whole curriculum and not only in geography and science?  Why?
  • What do you think young people should leave school knowing, being able to do and valuing in relation to these issues?

Climate change and sustainability education beyond the curriculum

  • Which examples of actions beyond the curriculum did you find most powerful?  Can you think of others that your school is already doing or could do?

Reflecting on young people’s vision for climate change and sustainability education in schools 

  • How similar or different are the responses of your students to climate change compared with the students in the film?  
  • Which approaches – in the film or from your own knowledge - might enable the greatest sense of hope and agency for the children and young people in your community? 

Climate change and sustainability and our everyday lives 

  • How might you describe or define sustainability? 
  • How can individuals contribute to a more sustainable world? 
  • Where in the curriculum might you introduce students to the kinds of inspiring projects happening around the world to secure a more sustainable future?

Final reflections

  • Which three ideas or points will you take forward from this film? 
  • What questions still remain? 
  • What goals can you set for your work in climate change and sustainability education? 

Access the modules

Our CPD modules are hosted on a platform called UCLeXtend. New users will need to first create a UCLeXtend account before they can enrol themselves on our modules. Please ensure you have done this before you click the links below. Once you have created an account, click on the module you wish to enrol yourself on, add the item to your shopping basket and checkout to gain access. The module will then appear in your MyeXtend homepage when you wish to access it in the future.


Meet the team


Dr Janet Davies has taught geography in both primary and secondary schools, been an examiner and coursework moderator for GCSE geography and a local authority adviser for English. She joined UCL in 2011, leading primary PGCE English and supporting school partnership. In more recent years, she’s been fortunate to return to her curriculum passion for geography, teaching PGCE primary geography and sustainability foundation and specialism and writing for geographical publications.  Janet has created primary geography and history resources for a number of commercial companies and has designed online CPD courses for primary teachers. She is delighted to bring this experience to the Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Education (CCCSE)'s Teaching for Sustainable Futures primary geography modules.

Dr Tessa Willy has taught in both secondary and primary schools both in the UK and abroad for 16 years. She then moved into Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and has worked at Oxford Brookes University, the University of Roehampton, Kingston University and in her current post as Deputy Programme Lead on the Primary PGCE at IOE. As well as her leadership role, Tessa teaches on the geography foundation and geography and sustainability specialism as well as developing resources for CCCSE. Tessa is a Life Fellow of the RGS-IBG, holds Chartered Geographer (Teacher) Status and is the Chair of the GA’s Primary Geography Journal.

Dr David Mitchell geography in schools for nine years before moving into teacher education at UCL-Institute of Education (UCL-IOE) where he is Associate Professor of Geography Education. He teaches on initial teacher education, undergraduate and Masters programmes. David’s research interests are in curriculum development and teacher agency, particularly related to climate change and sustainability. David’s book ‘Hyper-socialised’ (Mitchell, 2020) looks at the teacher’s role and agency in shaping the geography curriculum. David was principal investigator in the GeoCapabilities 3 project (2018-2021). His current work includes developing teacher education in UCL-IOE’s Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Education (CCCSE) and David is particularly interested in how geography education can lead to hope and action for more sustainable futures.


Dr Alison Kitson is an Associate Professor of Education at IOE, and Programme Director for CCCSE. She began her career teaching history in three state secondary schools and has subsequently worked in higher education (at the University of Warwick and UCL) and at the Training and Development Agency for Schools. One of Alison’s enduring commitments has been to further the professional development of teachers at every career stage and she has worked extensively in initial teacher education for over twenty years. Alison’s interest in the potential of school history to contribute to young people’s understanding of the climate crisis has grown in recent years and is in keeping with her consistent belief that the history we teach ought to help children and young people make sense of the work around them. Alison has worked at UCL since 2008 and became Deputy President of the Historical Association in 2021.  

Dr Michael Riley began his teaching career as a VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) teacher in Tanzania. He taught history in four state secondary schools in the UK and later became Humanities Adviser for Somerset LEA. From 2008-20019 Michael was Director of the Schools History Project. He has written and edited range of educational resources to support the teaching of school history. Through his work as a teacher and author, Michael seeks to make school history challenging, fascinating and accessible for all students. He is particularly interested in helping learners to build historical knowledge and understanding through the process of historical enquiry. His most recent work is focussed on the relationship between school history and identity with a specific emphasis on the power local history and the legacy of the British Empire. In 2018, Michael joined the IOE, UCL’s Faculty for Education and Society as Lecturer in History Education where he works on the PGCE programme.