Learning for Sustainability

As Scotland moves towards legal incorporation of the UNCRC, and in a year that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child voted to incorporate children’s environmental rights under the 26th General Comment, the demonstration of Scotland’s commitment to children’s participation rights is critical.

Children's collage of a sustainable vision for the future

Scotland’s Learning for Sustainability curriculum is rooted in the UNCRC, including Articles 29 and 12, ensuring children’s education fosters respect for the environment and their right to participate in matters affecting them. Despite this, Scottish children have expressed a lack of involvement in their learning, especially regarding the climate crisis and outdoor education. This gap was highlighted by Members of Children’s Parliament in our first Learning for Sustainability (Part 1) consultation with children. The consultation findings emphasized the need for a more inclusive and participatory approach to the curriculum in Scotland.

Project Aims and Approaches

By applying a rights-based approach to curriculum that is fit for the current context, we are celebrating a move towards a more inclusive, informed, and sustainable future for everyone in Scotland. Our aim is for children to contribute their amazing ideas and childhood expertise to a Learning for Sustainability curriculum. Our hope is that this new curriculum builds the capacity of every child in Scotland and through their experience of participation. We hope this also provides an antidote to the rising climate anxiety children expressed in the first consultation.

Project Delivery  

Children’s Parliament has been commissioned by Scottish Government to return to two schools that took part in the first Learning for Sustainability consultation to support their participation in the implementation of new Learning for Sustainability guidelines published by Scottish Government in their Target 2030 Action Plan. This new programme of work will run from September 2023 to July 2024, aligning with the meetings of the new Action Plan Leadership Group.

For the Learning for Sustainability (Part 2) consultation, 53 Members of Children’s Parliament are completing a series of workshops, class Mission activities, and online calls. We will explore their views and ideas on what needs to happen in Scotland to implement the new Action Plan in a way that meets their rights under the UNCRC.  To support this, ten Investigator MCPs will be supported to participate in the decision-making processes of the Learning for Sustainability Leadership Group, chaired by Scottish Government.

This builds on children’s Calls to Action from across our work on Scotland’s Climate Assembly and the subsequent Learning for Sustainability (Part 1). Throughout their engagement, Members of Children’s Parliament have consistently called for more holistic, participatory, and rights-based climate, outdoor, and sustainability education to match the urgency of the current climate emergency and its threat to children’s human rights.

Learning for Sustainability (Part 1)

“We should have Learning for Sustainability because if people learn about it, they will act, and it’s true that just a few people can make a change, and more children can have their voices heard.”

MCP, age 10, Edinburgh

Our Children’s Parliament Investigates: Learning for Sustainability (Part 1) project report shares the outcomes of our engagement with over 100 children across Scotland on the Learning for Sustainability curriculum.

Download the report at the link:

Thank you to our adult practitioners who shared their reflections with us in our adult interviews. You can read their responses to our 7 questions on Learning for Sustainability delivery in educational settings across Scotland in our separate adult report here.

Delivering Learning for Sustainability (Part 1)

According to Article 12 of the UNCRC, children have the right to have their views heard on matters that are important to them. Children also have the right to an education about their physical environment. Following on from the participation of Members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs) in Scotland’s Climate Assembly from October 2020-February 2022, we listened to children’s Calls to Action on receiving education on climate change by exploring Scottish Government’s new Learning for Sustainability consultation.  

For this project, we worked with over 100 Members of Children’s Parliament aged 2-13 years old to explore the question of, “why is Learning for Sustainability important to children in Scotland?” 

We delivered a series of initial full-day workshops, followed by 2 months of online calls with a smaller group of Investigator MCPs. Through artwork, games, and rights-based activities we gathered their views and opinions on how their Learning for Sustainability curriculum can be improved, including from a children’s human rights perspective.

Digital output  

Our ThingLink resource hosts the children’s artwork, including a poem gathering their reflections on why Learning for Sustainability is important to them, which can be found here.

Children’s book illustrator Emily Mackenzie supported the creation of the ThingLink through her bespoke illustrations and co-creation of the children’s mascot character, Dodger the red squirrel.

MCPs called for the following changes and improvements to Learning for Sustainability delivery in Scotland.

  • Children should be able to regularly learn about climate change and sustainability outside in nature.
  • Adults in school and adults who decide what we learn, need to learn about the climate emergency too.  
  • Children are passionate about climate change; their views, ideas and opinions should be included in how and what they learn about this subject.
  • Children and adults should have opportunities to work together on children’s rights, climate change and sustainability.
  • All adults, especially Scottish Government, should take urgent action to provide a healthy, happy, and safe environment and planet for children now and in the future.

Further information  

If you have any questions or would like more information, you can contact Sophia Georgescu, Project Worker on sophia@childrensparliament.org.uk. For further information on Children’s Parliament’s involvement in Scotland’s Climate Assembly, visit here.

Project supporters/partners/funders

Date: 2023
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