DEFRA supports a range of projects with the aim of increasing understanding of the environment in the education sector. The climate change champions competition was launched in January 2006 and nine champions have now been chosen; one from each region in England. During their term of office, they are spreading the message about climate change, and the role that young people can play in tackling it, throughout their respective regions.
The champions initiative is part of the larger climate change communications initiative (CCCI). Through the CCCI, 83 projects have been funded by the climate challenge fund, and 16 of these are aimed at young people. The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has invited representatives from all the education-related climate challenge fund projects to a meeting. This will ensure that activities are as joined up as possible.
On 2 February, the Secretary of State and the Education Secretary announced that Al Gore's film “An Inconvenient Truth” will form part of a climate change pack sent to secondary schools in England. DEFRA will be part of a sustainable schools year of action to support all schools in becoming models of sustainable best practice. Support materials will include teacher resource packs, a pupil “detective kit”, guidance for bursars and governors, and a new teaching award.
DEFRA is an active partner in the year of food and farming, a joint initiative with DfES, which will start this September for the 2007-08 school year. This initiative aims to educate children and young people about the origins of the food they eat and how it is produced. DEFRA is also a signatory to the learning outside the classroom manifesto, launched by DfES in November 2006.
Currently, there are approximately 1,000 farms in England providing educational access visits under agri-environment schemes (environmental stewardship and countryside stewardship). Farmers receive payments for opening their farms, free of charge, to schools for curricular studies and colleges and other special interest groups for formal or informal study. A wide range of organisations are involved in school visits to farms. However, DEFRA is the biggest single provider of visits, which offer ideal opportunities during the year of food and farming.
In addition, the waste and resources action programme (WRAP) runs the Recycle Now schools programme on behalf of DEFRA. This involves the “Recycler” robot, which can encourage primary school children to recycle from a young age and to take the recycling message home. The programme is also looking to develop resources that secondary schools can use.
The eco-schools programme provides a framework to enable schools to analyse their operations and become more sustainable. It promotes environmental awareness in a way that links to many curriculum subjects, including citizenship, personal and social and health education, and education for sustainable development. Eco-schools examine all their activities and implement ways of reducing their environmental impact; including litter, waste, energy, water, school grounds, healthy living, biodiversity and global perspectives.