On Earth Day 2022 we released the results of On The Pulse: The Jack Petchey Environmental Youth Survey. This survey asked 4,000 young people their thoughts on environmental issues and how they and their schools can be better empowered to build a more sustainable future.
The survey itself was launched shortly after the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), when world leaders and decision-makers gathered together to discuss what needs to be done to protect the environment, prevent climate change, and protect future generations. We wanted to make sure that young people’s voices were not missed in these conversations, and that they felt their ideas were heard and taken forward in their local areas across London and Essex.
The UK recently released Sustainability and Climate Change: a strategy for the education and children’s services systems, in which the Department for Education identifies several ways it plans to be a world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change.
The strategy identifies several main areas to implement this:
- Climate Education
The Department of Education plans to prepare all young people for a world impacted by climate change through learning and practical experience. This includes introducing a natural history GCSE to give a more in-depth understanding of and engagement with the natural world and an annual climate literacy survey to benchmark progress.
This is in line with what young people told us through our survey that they would like to see. One of the main findings of the JPF survey, was that young people don’t feel they are getting enough education on the environment. School was identified as the place where young people most engage with information, discussion and action around environmental issues (63%). Despite this, only 38% of students said that they currently receive dedicated lessons on environmental issues and two-thirds of young people want more environmental education in the curriculum. This suggests that increased education around climate change in schools could be the most effective way to engage large numbers of young people with environmental protection and better equip them for future opportunities to do so.
“Educate people about ecological [and environmental] issues, and make sure it’s relevant, modern education that addresses the current issues.” – Taylor, On The Pulse survey respondent from Basildon.
2. Green skills and careers
“We will harness young people’s passion and interest in climate change and sustainability to enable them to have the knowledge and skills (in STEM and other key subjects) required for green jobs.” Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP, Secretary of State for Education.
According to our survey, 1 in 3 young people are already interested in a career in the environmental and sustainability sectors, and 1 in 5 young people would like to know more about these options.
Young people also identified how several extra-curricular opportunities could also enable young people to participate in environmental protection, which could also build up their CV for future green jobs. These include schools introducing an environmentally-focused student council or student body, more environmental volunteering opportunities for young people (such as in community gardens) and encouraging green behaviour more on an individual level.
3. Connecting with Nature
Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review states that ‘connection with nature declines in childhood to an overall low in the mid-teens. Creating an environment from an early age where we are able to connect to nature is essential for self-enforcement in protecting and valuing nature’.
The UK’s Sustainability Strategy aims to increase opportunities for all children and young people to spend more time in nature, learn more about it, and become more actively involved in improving their local environment.
This localised focus of engaging young people in nature around them was reinforced by what young people told us at several different points throughout our survey. Young people said that they have vastly different levels of access to green space, and that active opportunities need to be given to engage them.
- More schools don’t have adequate green spaces on campus than do, according to our survey
- 55% of young people would like to see more school trips into nature to engage young people
- 1 in 4 young people are already involved in a group or initiative making a positive impact on their local environment
These statistics show young people’s motivation to engage with and protect nature in their local area. To increase access to such green spaces, JPF has identified multiple funding opportunities we currently offer to schools and youth groups which could be used to take young people on a trip into nature or develop an organisation’s green space. See our Grantee’s Guide for more ideas and information about how to apply.
4. Buildings and Infrastructure
We gave young people the opportunity to suggest to us what they think their school/college should focus on to positively impact the environment. There was a clear message from young people about wanting their schools to lead by example and show students how to positively impact the environment around them. The majority of responses were related to improving facilities and school infrastructure, such as increasing recycling facilities, making school uniforms out of recycled materials/encouraging second-hand uniforms, using recyclable canteen containers and implementing an environmentally-focused student body to drive change at the school.
This focus was shared in the Department of Education’s strategy, which focused on researching and reviewing how educational buildings could reduce energy demand, adapt to climate risks, drive innovation in construction, act as a catalyst for green jobs and deliver savings from such adaptations.
We are interested to hear from schools who are already implementing changes to be more eco-friendly. If this is you, please email email@example.com as we would love to share examples good practice to inspire others.
Involving young people in these plans
The UK strategy emphasises the importance of young people’s voices in shaping policy changes and new initiatives around young people and the environment. JPF is an organisation with a vast reach of young people across London and Essex, and we are working to connect young people with decision-makers to ensure they are continually heard in these discussions of building a greener future.
We are looking for young people between the ages of 11-25 with an interest in the environment to sign up to these meetings for a chance for their views to be heard. If you know a young person who might be interested, please ask them to sign up here.
As part of our Strategic Plan 2022-2024 we are looking to develop our funding and opportunities to engage young with the environment around them. To shape this work, we will be taking forward the ideas that young people have told us and implementing them into new opportunities in the near future.
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