Two-thirds of English schools are taking steps to be more sustainable by 2024 says new Pearson School Report

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Sustainable schools: A new in-depth study compiled by the leading digital media learning company, Pearson, explores the environmental, economic, and social activities taking place in the country’s schools – from ‘going green’ to future-proofing a curriculum with wellbeing and life skills at its core.

More than six in 10 headteachers (65%) are taking steps to be a more sustainable and eco-friendly school in the next two years, and a half (47%) are planning to teach climate change, according to the findings, released today.

The Pearson School Report: Schools Today, Schools Tomorrow – Views on education in England – 2022 and beyond, presents the views of more than 6,500 educators surveyed in English schools and sheds light on the impact of world events on classrooms across the country, as well as how education can be evolved to best serve learners this year and beyond.

It explores teacher insights on the future of education, school communities, and the national curriculum while considering core environmental, economic, and social elements; the key pillars of sustainability.

The release of Pearson’s School Report follows recent research by the UK body Public First, in which 50% of parents reported that climate change was the most important issue to their children.

Almost half of all teachers (48%) have seen an increase in awareness amongst pupils around sustainability and the environment over the past year, yet six in 10 (61%) do not think the current education system is developing sustainably-minded, global citizens of the future. Today’s figures suggest that most school leaders are working to meet that need.

Along with an increased focus on climate awareness, teachers responding to Pearson’s survey also expressed their wish to see a greater emphasis in schools on both social equity and supporting pupil mental health and wellbeing.

Two-thirds of teachers want to see core life skills, such as managing finances and communications skills, mental health/wellbeing (60%), social skills (54%) and responsible decision making (48%), incorporated into the national curriculum with as much time and emphasis as core subjects.

Almost half of all teachers (43%) want to see climate change incorporated into the national curriculum with as much time and emphasis as core subjects and a third rank climate awareness as one of the top characteristics that they would like a future national curriculum to develop among their pupils so that they can thrive in 2022 and beyond.

Speaking about the findings, Holly Everett, Education Programme Manager at Reboot the Future, a charitable foundation with a vision of a compassionate and sustainable world, said:

“It’s encouraging to see so many headteachers proactively taking steps towards becoming more sustainable, but it’s also important to highlight the need for a holistic, systems approach to embedding sustainability into schools. Everything is connected; sustainability is inextricably linked with wellbeing, responsible decision-making, life, social and relationship skills, and so each of these issues should be used as themes to weave throughout the curriculum and the school year, rather than addressed in silos.

“There are so many micro-opportunities in the day to engage students in ideas and actions for a better future, from the moment your students walk through the door.”
Headteacher, Sara Davies, of St Bartholomew’s Primary School in London, discusses their school’s existing approach to sustainability:  “As a school, we take a broad, holistic approach to sustainability which includes wellbeing, financial education, the environment, and care for the planet.

“We have wellbeing ambassadors and an eco-council who contribute to our immediate environment and lead on initiatives to support our approach and our Year 6 run our savings bank which is well established, as is our approach to financial education.
“The children and staff acknowledge that every small change, from water consumption to recycling impacts on the big picture, and  through this we are all responsible.”

Sharon Hague, Managing Director, Pearson School Qualifications, said:

“We are committed to supporting schools in their mission to become more sustainable and in helping to shape a future generation of sustainably-minded global citizens. Over the past few years, we have seen in both our project qualifications and wider initiatives like our World Changers competition, that there is a real thirst for driving proactive change in this space. We are excited to build on this passion and are working with key partners in the sector to support schools, students and parents to make education enriching for all learners.”

Other key findings from the Pearson School Report include:

– Eight in 10 teachers feel that pupils’ social and emotional development is as important as their academic development, yet six in 10 teachers spend less than 30 minutes of a working day developing pupils’ social and emotional skills. When asked, more than one in four (27%) stated that they spent no time on this at all

– Almost nine in 10 teachers (88%) thought that all children would benefit from a greater focus on emotional and social skills, particularly those with SEND or from areas of disadvantage

– 37% of heads are planning to embed life skills into their curriculum, whilst 38% plan to build space to explore current affairs, and 46% want to enact positive change in their community

– Almost six in 10 headteachers (56%) are planning to diversify curriculum topics to cover race/gender/disability

In the last year, teachers have seen a rise in pupils’ awareness and anxiety over global issues like global conflict, Covid-19, mental health, and climate change

The five most important characteristics that teachers would like the future national curriculum to develop among their pupils so that they can thrive in 2022 and beyond are:

  • resilience (63%),
  • kindness (61%),
  • self-esteem (61%),
  • tolerance of diverse opinions (58%),
  • and societal and cultural awareness (57%).
  • A third (33%) of teachers want a greater focus on climate awareness

Most teachers (92%) agree that wellness and mental health awareness should be introduced to students in primary school or earlier. Starting this in the early years (pre-school or infants) was a preference for 63% of educators. This aligns with additional School Report findings that show that the funding of a senior mental health lead across all schools was the most supported policy in the government’s recently released Schools White Paper, Opportunity for All (68%)

Three-quarters (73%) of headteachers are planning to embed mental health and wellbeing across the curriculum over the next two years

52% of all educators feel we need a better digital curriculum to prepare learners for an online world.

Speaking about the wider implications of the report, Pearson’s Sharon Hague continued:

“Today’s education system is delivered year on year by one of the most dedicated, compassionate, and vital workforces around – one that not only supports the varying needs of children and young people but also the ever-evolving communities and workplaces of the future.

“We know from this research and our work on the Future of Qualifications and Assessment that there is a desire, and need, for a progressive education system that promotes choice and provides a broad inclusive curriculum. This extends beyond just secondary level, but across all phases and stages of education.”

The full, embargoed report is attached and will be available for download on Thursday 30th June at

Stay up to date with ongoing research and education news by following Pearson on Twitter @PearsonSchools and on Facebook @PearsonUKSchools


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