IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


New professional development that recognises every subject matters to build sustainable futures

13 July 2023

The UCL Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Education (CCCSE) has launched a new range of free online professional development programmes for teachers.

Woman showing young children plants outdoors under magnifying glasses. Credit: Rawpixel / Adobe Stock

The modules have been developed by a team of experts at IOE’S UCL Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Education (CCCSE), who argue that every subject makes a distinctive contribution towards understanding the climate crisis and the ways we can live more sustainably in the future.   

The first set of CPD modules in the ‘Teaching for Sustainable Futures’ programme support teachers teaching History and Geography in primary and secondary schools. The modules provide an introduction to these subjects' potential to enhance children and young people’s understanding of the climate crisis and sustainability. While History has not traditionally engaged with climate change topics, Geography is one of the few subjects that actively addresses it in its curriculum. 

Later this year, a second set of modules will be released that showcase how climate change and sustainability can be embedded within the existing school curriculum using innovative teaching methods and building on current research. For example, content in the Primary History programme explores how to teach prehistory through the prism of our relationship with woodland and trees, whilst content developed for secondary school Geography focuses on a restoration project in the Arctic. 

This programme of professional development is underpinned by a commitment to balance honesty with hope, and to help children and young people envision alternative futures and understand the agency they have to achieve them.

The resources are underpinned by the findings of a national survey of teachers and headteachers conducted by CCCSE last year, the first data analysis of which has been released in a new report published today, 13 July 2023.  

Furthermore, climate change and sustainability are not routinely embedded in subjects across the whole curriculum. In a poll of parents commissioned by the Centre last year, over 1,000 parents said they felt school is the best place for their child to learn about these issues, but this can only be made a reality if teachers are prepared and supported to teach about them. 

Dr Alison Kitson, Programme Director of CCCSE and Professional Development Lead of the Teaching for Sustainable Futures programme, says the survey’s findings are concerning given the acute challenges that humans and the rest of the natural world are facing. 

A short film has also been released today to introduce school staff to the programme. The film is entitled: ‘Looking to the future: an introduction to climate change and sustainability in schools’, and is presented by Dr Helen Czerski (UCL Department of Mechanical Engineering). 

By summer 2024, the team will launch further modules for English and Maths, and eventually aim to provide modules in every school subject.



Credit: Rawpixel / Adobe Stock