Welcoming the new national Learning for Sustainability Action Plan
“Making LfS a key driver in the future of Scottish education will not only enable us to heed the call to action from learners but will allow us to achieve much more besides. All of our policy ambitions in relation to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, climate and net zero, biodiversity, circular economy, and economic and social transformation can only be delivered with the commitment of Scotland’s people, supported throughout their education.”
Target 2030: A movement for people, planet and prosperity, 23 June 2023
We’re delighted to welcome Scotland’s refreshed national Learning for Sustainability (LfS) Action Plan: ‘Target 2030: a movement for people, planet and prosperity, which was launched on 23rd June at Grove Academy in Dundee by Jenny Gilruth MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.
Building on the five key Strategic Recommendations accepted in full by Scottish Ministers in 2013 following the 2012 One Planet Schools report, and further strengthened in the 2016 Vision 2030+ report, this potentially ground-breaking Plan outlines a roadmap for ensuring that every learner receives their entitlement to Learning for Sustainability; that every educator demonstrates LfS in their practice; every setting has a whole-setting approach to LfS; LfS is supported through the setting’s physical environment and policies, and a strategic national approach to LfS be implemented and supported.
A time of change
This new Plan is timely; coming, as it does, at a time of huge and far-reaching change in Scotland’s educational landscape.
Since the results of the OECD report into Scottish education, commissioned in 2020 by Scottish Government, we’ve seen the publication of a ‘bold and radical’ blueprint of recommendations for Scottish education; followed in quick succession by a national discussion, and independent reviews on the future of qualifications & assessment, and the skills delivery landscape. High-profile national bodies like Education Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Skills Development Scotland are preparing for major reforms, and our new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills took up post in March 2023.
Learning for Sustainability – ‘a golden thread’.
Distilling the recommendations outlined in these various reports and identifying the synergies between them to create a coherent, deliverable ‘whole’ is no easy task. It is, however, heartening to see the way in which the need for Learning for Sustainability can be seen as a ‘golden thread’ woven across them all. Specific examples include:
- Referencing the concerns of young people regarding climate change and human rights, and including Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a key element of the vision for Scottish education (Professor Ken Muir’s ‘Putting Learners at the Centre‘)
- “Overall, the most powerful message emanating from the National Discussion is the need to educate all learners in Scotland for an uncertain and unpredictable future…” (‘All Learners in Scotland Matter – national discussion on education summary report’)
- “Scotland’s qualifications and assessment system should…Reflect the Scottish curriculum whilst being responsive to the changing needs of individual learners and of society, creating a positive and sustainable future for learners, their communities and the wider world.” (‘It’s our Future’: independent review of qualifications and assessment’)
- “The transformation facing our economy and society is enormous as changing technology, changing demographics, and a changing climate act as catalysts for the emergence of new industries and the reinvention of others.” (‘Fit for the Future: review of the skills delivery landscape)
Building a movement for change
Implementation of the refreshed national Learning for Sustainability Action Plan offers an opportunity to realise many of the ambitions articulated in the reports outlined above. Its ambition is to support and enable learners, educators and the communities around them to create meaningful, real-life learning experiences that develop and enhance the skills, knowledge, confidence and values needed to thrive in an increasingly complex and challenging world.
Informed by consultation with young people of all ages and educators, the Plan shares a vision of a Scotland where, by the year 2030, all 3-18 learning establishments are ‘Sustainable Learning Settings’; weaving and embedding an ethos of learning for sustainability across and into their culture, curriculum, and campus that ripples out into – and is supported by – their wider community.
Supported by a Leadership Group comprising expertise from across major educational bodies – including Learning for Sustainability Scotland – and, in the future, by an equivalent Group of young people, the Plan contains 25 actions, grouped under five key Themes:
- Leadership and collaborative partnership. ‘A movement for change such as LfS requires leadership from all key people and at all levels: children and young people, educators, parents and carers, leaders of education settings, local authority directors and their staff, local councillors, regional improvement collaboratives, national and regional agencies and bodies.’
- Curriculum, learning, teaching and assessment. ‘Children and young people want to have opportunities to take part in LfS-related activities and to be able to gain qualifications that demonstrate this learning. This theme is about the experiences for learners and the support to educators to provide inspirational, relevant and impactful learning related to sustainability.’
- Learning environment and resources. ‘The research for this plan demonstrated that learners and educators want to ensure that their settings are taking a whole-setting and community approach. The theme therefore covers all of the factors which influence the learning environment. Resources such as the people involved in the learning environment, the buildings, grounds, wider community spaces and connections to nature and resources.’
- Learner voice, choice and action. ‘LfS is about supporting learners to make informed choices relating to their learning, helping them to develop and flourish and to be empowered.’
- Meaning and understanding. A key finding from the research which informed this plan is the need to ensure that all relevant stakeholders have a shared understanding of LfS, together with its values and scope.
Co-creating the journey ahead
Target 2030: a movement for people, planet and prosperity is just that – a movement. It will require input from everyone if it is to succeed. There’s no doubt that the road ahead will be exciting; opening up new possibilities for educators, learners and the communities around them. As we seek to ‘join the dots’ across all of these policy ambitions in a meaningful and coherent way, there will be challenges too. Consultation has been a key element of the journey so far, and ongoing discussion, dialogue, collaboration and co-creation will be crucial as we take our next steps together towards creating a ‘coherent landscape that inspires public trust and confidence in our education and examination system‘. ‘Target 2030’ will be key in building connections across much of this landscape – and ensuring that our learners and educators are supported to co-imagine, create and enjoy rewarding, meaningful and inspirational learning.
People, planet and prosperity: a call to action
It’s over ten years since the initial vision for Learning for Sustainability became part of the Scottish educational landscape. Now, in 2023, we have an opportunity like never before to embed this ethos across learning. This will need all relevant individuals and organisations to play their part if real progress is to be made. The Learning for Sustainability Target 2030 ‘Call to Action’ will be issued in late 2023 and we look forward to sharing this with you – and to working in partnership with you on the journey ahead.
We’ll leave you with these final words from the Target 2030 Plan….
“However, our vision is not only for a better Scotland: it is a vision for a better world. We are part of a global family of nations working to deliver the UN SDGs commitments by 2030. As we seek to drive towards our goal we must look outwards and forwards and work hand-in-hand with other nations – by demonstrating leadership where we can, but also by collaborating and learning from others.Target 2030: a movement for people, planet and prosperity, June 2023
This vision and action plan is not just for a few, it is for everyone.”