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Putting climate change at the heart of education: Is England's strategy a placebo for policy?

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Publication details

JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
DateAccepted/In press - 30 May 2022
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 14 Jun 2022
Number of pages19
Early online date14/06/22
Original languageEnglish


In this article, we present an analysis of the draft Sustainability & Climate Change strategy for education and children’s services systems in England, produced by the Department for Education (2022a). Using critical discourse analysis, we juxtapose qualitative data collected from >200 youth teachers and teacher educators in the context of co-creating a manifesto for education and environmental sustainability (EfES). Through analysis of these two datasets, we evaluate the government’s proposals for climate education and sustainability. We find the strategy foregrounds economic concerns, with educational priorities driven by the ‘net zero’ policy agenda, and an over-reliance on increased science-focused knowledge and skills. The strategy suggests an absence of governmental responsibility and attention to the political dimensions of climate change. This is in contrast to stakeholder perspectives which see economic priorities as part of the problem and call for pro-environmental action at all levels, including from policy-makers. The strategy has a depoliticising effect as it introduces additional demands for teachers and schools without the associated enabling policy environment. We argue that the strategy runs the risk of becoming a placebo for policy, with the appearance of ‘doing something’ whilst failing to address the fundamental policy problem.

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© 2022 The Authors.

    Research areas

  • Climate change, England, sustainability, policy, education

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