Children should be taught how to stage climate protests, teachers say

Primary school children as young as five should be taught how to stage angry protests against climate change, majority of teachers say

  • Research involved asking 626 teachers across England for views on climate change education
  • Teachers believed almost in an action-focused climate change curriculum
  • Just over half believed this should extend to participation in civil disobedience 

More than half of teachers in England are in favour of teaching children to take direct action against climate change, according to a survey.

The research, led by the University of Bristol, involved asking 626 primary and secondary school teachers across England for their views on climate change education.

Teachers believed almost unanimously in an action-focused climate change curriculum incorporated across subject, beginning with conservation projects in early primary school.

Results also showed 54 per cent of those surveyed believed this should extend to participation in civil disobedience at secondary school.

Professor Paul Howard-Jones, the study’s lead author, said children have been ‘inspired’ by Swedish teenage climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg.    

Thunberg, 18, whose activism has inspired a global movement, shot to fame after launching a solo ‘school strike’ outside the Swedish parliament aged just 15.

More than half of teachers in England are in favour of teaching children to take direct action against climate change, according to a survey. Pictured: Environmental campaigners block London’s Oxford Circus during a coordinated protest by the Extinction Rebellion group on April 15, 2019

The study, published in the journal Environmental Education Research, found that 72 per cent of respondents were already teaching or talking about climate change with their students.

Children had been ‘inspired’ by teenage climate activist Greta Thunburg, lead author Professor Paul Howard-Jones said.  

Professor Paul Howard-Jones, lead author of the work, said: ‘Teachers want their students to be informed in how they think and what they do about the climate emergency.

‘They are ready and willing to move forward with radical, action-oriented programmes of education that can help students drive our response to climate change.’

Police officers remove an Extinction Rebellion protester from Victoria Street, London, on Thursday September 3

A recent Ipsos survey found only 42 per cent of teachers in the US were teaching or talking about climate change with their students.

In total, 97 per cent of teachers surveyed in England believed climate change was caused by humans, compared with 39 per cent of respondents in the US.

In England, 19 per cent of teachers thought climate change was more important for further funding than science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

However, only 5 per cent of teachers in the US would prioritise climate change.

Greta Thunberg and other climate protesters gather for a protest against climate change outside the Swedish parliament building in Stockholm, Sweden

Professor Howard-Jones, of Bristol University’s School of Education and Cabot Institute for the Environment, added: ‘Despite being under-represented in the National Curriculum, climate change is something many young people feel passionate about.

‘School children have been inspired by Greta Thunberg, who has demonstrated the importance of peaceful protest to raise awareness of the climate crisis and spur individual as well as large-scale change.

‘They have also seen the tactics of groups like Extinction Rebellion and many have become activists already.

‘Our research indicates that teachers are prepared to support their activism through an action-oriented approach to Climate Change Education.

‘With COP26 being hosted in the UK in November, there has never been a better time to reflect on how we’re preparing young people for the defining issue of today.

The study, ‘The views of teachers in England on an action-oriented climate change curriculum’, is published in Environmental Education Research.

Pictured: Extinction Rebellion protesters take to the streets of Brisbane in December 2019

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