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Climate change and sustainability in primary and intermediate schools report

Rachel Bolstad

How does climate change and sustainability feature in primary and intermediate school classrooms and whole-school practices?

We asked teachers and principals a few questions about climate change and sustainability as part of the 2019 NZCER national survey of English-medium primary and intermediate schools.

Key findings are summarised in this infographic.

Findings include:

  • Many principals and teachers think climate change will have moderate to major impacts in their students’ lifetimes.
  • Half of the principals said their school supports students who choose to take part in climate action such as school strikes.
  • Many schools have a focus on practices such as waste reduction and gardening activities.  Other areas that could reduce schools’ climate impacts may be harder for schools to act on individually; for example, improvements to energy efficiency, reducing resource consumption or managing travel-related emissions
  • Teacher responses indicate that while sustainability and the environment are a focus in classrooms, climate change is less of a focus, particularly for students in the junior years.
  • Teachers were more likely to say their students undertook direct actions for the environment, and less likely to say their students undertook social actions for the environment.

Principals expressed a range of suggestions for system-wide changes or transitions that might be needed in response to climate change. These included:

  • system-wide approaches to improving infrastructure efficiency
  • making climate change response a bigger priority across the system and embedding it into all school decisions, and
  • approaches to curriculum and pedagogy that support localised actions, critical and creative thinking, and empowerment of young people and communities.
Year published: 
Publication type: 
Research report
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