The new strategy includes a range of measures to teach children about the importance of conserving and protecting our planet.

The Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy was announced by the Secretary of State for Education at COP26, and aims to prepare young people with the skills and knowledge needed for a changing world.

We’ve long called for the government to galvanise the power of young people to address the role of our education system in protecting the environment. We’ve long called for the educational reform that will equip young people with the skills, attitudes, motivation, tools and opportunities needed for them to play an active role in finding solutions to the environmental challenges we face today and to live more sustainably. We’ve long called for the voices of young people to be heard.

Through our Youth Board, we’re delighted to have been one of just a handful of wildlife charities and other organisations asked to provide feedback to the government’s Department for Education on its draft Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy.

As a centre for conservation education excellence and given that much of the zoo’s own work to embed conservation in the curriculum and empower the next generation of conservationists aligns with the Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy, our Youth Board was perfectly placed to provide feedback on behalf of the zoo.

Our Youth Board member Izzy Cook sat on the department’s youth panel to highlight how the draft strategy could be improved to better prepare young people for a world impacted by climate change.

Izzy Cook, with members of the Chester Zoo Youth Board.

Following on from this consultation, we welcome the publication of the final Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy, including the updated recognition of the importance of young people having practical opportunities to enhance biodiversity, as well as learning the skills needed to enter careers in biodiversity restoration. We now look forward to bringing our expertise and experience to the next phase of development.

While we support the inclusion of environmental and conservational themes in the new Natural History GCSE and science curriculum, we’d like to see these themes across the whole school curriculum so that environmental issues are viewed from multiple angles and normalised as part of everyday life. With one million species at risk of extinction, we also urge the Department to ensure our school curriculum provides the greatest possible emphasis on the full biodiversity crisis that we face.

It’s imperative that we act to prevent the collapse of the natural world and, as such, we must design our education system around young people’s needs, society’s needs and our planet’s needs. Over the past five years, our zoo has been working with Ignite Institute to do exactly that – to rigorously embed environmental conservation across the curriculum and evaluate the positive impact that that can have on children, schools, society, and the planet.

Through our collaboration with universities and our own Conservation Training Academy, we’re also already providing training and supporting teachers to deliver climate and sustainability education in their own schools, as well as enabling young people to develop the skills to pursue green careers. Our work also includes supporting schools to increase biodiversity in their communities and to increase sustainability within their supply chains.

We’re proud of the amazing conservation work our teams carry out to help prevent extinction here in the UK and across the world, but we can’t achieve this on our own. We need our government’s support to empower the next generation of conservationists and help us to turn the tide in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crisis.