Combat climate breakdown in school and beyond

Here is the resolution passed overwhelmingly at NEU Conference. Below it are some suggestions on implementing it from Schools’ Climate Education South Yorkshire (supported by Sheffield NEU) which we could make use of in Birmingham. 

Conference recognises

  1. The COVID crisis has been one manifestation of environmental blowback.
  2. Climate breakdown and mass extinction are accelerating.
  3. The world needs a global green new deal with all countries co-operating to salvage human civilisation.
  4. The COP in November 2021 will be a pivotal point.
  5. The measures taken by the UK government are not adequate even to meet its existing targets but many local authorities have declared a climate emergency.
  6. The refusal of the DFE to consider a curriculum review to make our education system adequate for the society we need and implement their legal obligation under Article 12 of the Paris Agreement is a betrayal of the children in our schools.

Resolves to

1. Review all national union activity and infrastructure to draw up a plan for complete eradication of greenhouse gas emissions and begin implementing it as rapidly as possible – with a report on progress at the 2022 conference.

2. Ensure that education in Just Transition is built into our reps training and call on Districts to incorporate it into local training.

3. Incorporate the huge range of creative work in developing climate themed education done by teachers and environmental campaigns into the Union’s CPD programme.

4. Continue to campaign for a review of the curriculum in response to the climate crisis.

5. Take these points to the TUC to propose the rest of the trade union movement does the same.

6. Call for all schools, LAs and MATs to declare a climate emergency and to plan a path to zero greenhouse gas emissions by supporting the Let’s Go Zero 2030 campaign and for LAs to establish local Task Forces, comprising representatives of all relevant parties including school staff and students, parents, FE colleges, universities, employers and trade unions; to coordinate provision and support for Just Transition in local economies and transition from school to training and work, with teacher unions represented in the local authority’s climate emergency policy process.

7. Work with the school students movement, other unions and campaigns in informing and mobilising our members in support of actions up to and beyond the November COP in Glasgow.

8. Organise protests in the autumn, with others, at the DFE and the Treasury and locally calling for a review of the curriculum and for investment to create a million green jobs and apprenticeships.

9. Encourage members to show solidarity with calls for a global climate strike on November 5th.

10. Support the activities of the COP 26 coalition, including publicising and mobilising members for the global day of action on November 6th.

And below are some suggestions on implementing Climate Breakdown motion from Schools’ Climate Education South Yorkshire (supported by Sheffield NEU) which we could make use of in Birmingham.

To assess our own carbon footprint we need an audit of union buildings, infrastructure and activities and an assessment of carbon emissions from each; and identify what can be done, e.g. are regional officials still supplied with diesel vehicles/can this be shifted to electric and how soon? Who supplies our power? Can we generate power by installing solar panels on any/all of our buildings? Every step we take should be publicised as we take it.

For training courses, the Greener Jobs Alliance Just Transition and climate change online module are available for free off the peg as a framework for trainers. These could be used for stand alone courses or as modules in general Reps courses. CPD Dept should consider. This could initially connect with campaigning on the ITUC CEPOW initiative – raising Just Transition as a workplace demand in the run up to the COP – with a day of action on Sept 22.

There is a vast amount of material that members can use. There are two aspects to this. 1. Specific CPD courses, which can be related to campaigning initiatives as above, but also focus on aspects of climate breakdown learning. 2. Material on Learning Hub and web site. A lot of work is being done on this and we need someone from the CPD Dept to liaise with others and work together to archive material in an easily accessible form for colleagues to use at national level but also to  start accumulating an national archive of local frameworks too (like those in Leeds and South Yorkshire). A lot of this would need to be in place for the Climate Themed Learning Month around the COP that UCU are proposing we work on together for November; and preferably by the start of the Autumn term.

The points above are all about building union capacity – and apply to other unions as well as us. A motion to TUC on comparable lines and flagging up the COP would show that we are taking a lead on this as the NEU and putting the issue on the map for the whole movement, and beyond.

It would be very useful for Districts to invite Teach the Future and/or the union Network to present TTFs power point at meetings this summer – to build support for the September curriculum actions.

Initial steps to take this initiative could be an immediate letter to Teach the Future, UKSCN, FFF,, COP26 coalition, FOE, NUS/SOS, other relevant NGOs and other teacher/educator unions proposing a joint approach and a meeting to discuss what to do. Issues to be discussed.

  1. a) Range of demands for curriculum review. Initial step for 1 hour a week dedicated cross subject climate change learning time on Italian model; pending thorough review of entire curriculum and teacher training between now and next scheduled review in 2024
  2. b) Form of action. Physical demo at DFE if possible – moving on to Treasury. Plus joint zoom on the evening? Plus something everyone can do online and send on to everyone else they know? Parliamentary petition? Private members bill? this should take place soon so we can have the outline of the action in place and start building it before the end of the summer term.

Lets Go Zero are having a push for schools to sign up in the Summer term. They have a number of LAs, MATS and the Church of England signed up to push this. Some LAs are aiming to have all their schools on the programme by the end of Summer term. More detailed info below. We should push this through Districts, especially where there are LAs that are signed up, to make sure the union voice in this is central to it and it gets driven along at grassroots level, not as a tokenist badging operation at bureaucratic level. The Network will draft a short, sharp motion for Districts encapsulating this.

In consultation with others we will also draft a letter to LAs about union involvement in transition commissions/task forces where they exist and to suggest them where they do not that could be used by Districts/ taken up at Trades Councils; as a lot of LAs have Climate Emergency action plans, but very few have Just Transition bodies with union involvement.

The outline of the proposed actions around the COP itself are not yet clear. We will come back with an update once they are.

 To view this discussion on the web, visit

Thanks to Richard Souter
Schools’ Climate Education South Yorkshire

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