Thank you for writing to me about a Climate Change Emergency and Biodiversity Education Act, and the need to improve training for education staff in the teaching and learning of climate change.
On a general note, climate change is, of course, one of the biggest issues facing us. Therefore, I agree that children should receive appropriate education about the science of climate change, and its effects on our planet.
I and my colleagues in the Welsh Conservatives were encouraged to hear at a UK level that the Prime Minister committed to making the UK the world leader in low cost, clean power generation. In Wales, although the Welsh Labour-led Government called a climate change emergency in 2019, it is disappointing to see that progress has been slow and ambitious targets have yet to be outlined to combat climate change. I am also concerned to see that very little within the draft Budget 2021-22 supports the potential for a green recovery.
As regards the teaching of climate change, the Labour Welsh Government is currently in the process of designing and implementing the new Welsh curriculum. The purpose of this new curriculum is to help children be curious, and to give them the tools that they need to explore issues further. The opportunities within the new curriculum will allow for subjects such as climate change to be taught in a more creative way.
My colleague Suzy Davies MS, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Education and Skills, is currently closely scrutinising the new curriculum through the Welsh Government’s Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill to ensure that it achieves its aims. Suzy will of course be taking a close look at the guidance that will support the Areas of Learning and Experience within the curriculum to ensure that important issues are included in an appropriate way.
As a result of the new curriculum, teachers will have to get to grips with a lot of new things. This has meant that there has been a substantial increase in the number of applications for continuous professional development. However I believe that teachers should be provided with more training on how to teach the new curriculum on all subjects and areas on a rolling basis. Suzy has also called for some schools to be given more time to prepare for the curriculum if their preparations have been significantly disrupted due to the impact of COVID-19.
On retro-fitting school buildings, I am encouraged that Wales’ 21st Century Schools Programme does have climate change readiness as part of its key consideration for future building projects. It is also welcome to see examples of best practice in some schools, such as in the Swansea area, which are working to become net zero carbon by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Nevertheless, it would be worthwhile to gauge how far the Welsh Government and local authorities have progressed at a national level under Bands A and B of the Programme, and how effective the changes have been to reduce carbon emissions. As a result, my colleagues, the Shadow Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Janet Finch-Saunders MS, and the Shadow Minister for Education, Skills and the Welsh Language, Suzy Davies MS, will raise this with the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams MS, at the earliest opportunity.
Finally, the Welsh Conservatives believe that the climate emergency declaration is not enough, and must be met with real action if we are to tackle climate change. This is why we are taking a broader approach to the environmental issues facing Wales, including calling for a Clean Air Act for Wales in order to tackle the public health crisis caused by air pollution whilst reducing emissions across the whole of Wales. We also want to ensure that people across Wales are equipped with skills needed to help create a greener and more prosperous economy.
Thank you once again for writing to me.