Liz Thomas describes how a holistic ESDGC strategy for action operates in Wales

Wales is one of only two countries to be committed by governing statute to sustainability. The other is Finland. As part of its statutory commitment to sustainable development the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has provided considerable support and encouragement to ensure that Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC) is incorporated and embedded throughout the formal and informal education systems. Although not statutory, ESDGC is already subject to inspection which is undoubtedly helping to pave the way for its full integration into school life.

Welsh agenda

In December 2006, Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship – A Strategy for Action was launched. This was the culmination of many years’ concerted action and lobbying by NGOs and stakeholders throughout Wales, both separately and under the umbrella of Cyfanfyd, the Development Education Association for Wales.

The strategy for action addresses ESDGC needs throughout the education system: formal and informal sectors; further and higher education; as well as in continuing lifelong learning. It focuses on the need to appoint a learning champion to guide the movement within the assembly and specifies the need for a baseline survey to be carried out and supported by the development of common standards.

The baseline survey, already undertaken by ESTYN (the inspectorate for Wales) has found a serious imbalance between work driven by sustainable development and environmental education and a focus on global citizenship. Redressing this balance will be one of the major challenges of the coming years.

We are fortunate in Wales to be able to work together, and with the assembly government, to move this agenda forward. We have achieved a strong position. But it is apparent that this needs to be supported and honed to ensure that ESD does not continue to outweigh GC. It is also important that we enable our students to realise that every action for sustainability has a human cause and effect. We have linked ESD and GC, seeing them as part of the same continuum, and it will be interesting to see whether we are able to find a balance between them and to ensure that equal weight is given to both strands in the future. Presenting ESDGC in a holistic way is one of the challenges presented by the strategy.

Action plan

‘The world in which we live is the only one that we have – its sources are finite. To live sustainably and to be globally aware of the impact of our own lifestyles is, therefore, not an option but a necessity, I believe that this Action Plan will make a major contribution to us doing so in Wales; helping us to understand the issues, to gain skills to address challenges and to achieve something tangible and vitally important to ensure a positive future for generations to come.’ – Jane Davidson, minister for education and lifelong learning and skills

Introducing the strategy

Conferences took place in Carmarthen and Bangor in December 2006 to introduce and share the strategy with practitioners from across Wales. They aimed to identify the interest and expertise from across the sectors and to decide how best to harness these in order to drive forward the main priorities that have been identified by the strategy. Recommendations have emanated from WAG and its ESDGC panel that go across all the educational sectors. These include the ESTYN baseline audit, the production of common standards, a 10-year strategy to tie in with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the UNESCO ESD decade, and the identification of lead champions in every sector and every organisation concerned with ESDGC in Wales.

Priority actions have been identified for each sector and can be found within the strategy. There are also actions which are common to all sectors (formal, youth work, continuing education and lifelong learning). These include: 

  • increasing support to the assembly’s ESDGC panel to enable it to develop from a reactive panel to a more focused, proactive panel
  • having a designated lead champion for ESDGC who has responsibility for taking forward the ESDGC action plan
  • ESTYN carrying out a baseline survey of ESDGC in schools, youth work and adult community-based learning 
  • promoting common standards in terms of training, resourcing and the development of ESDGC so that they are all linked to the national standard.

Other priority actions involve all education settings working towards obtaining suitable environmental management systems for their own business premises and processes, thereby beginning the practice of a whole-institution approach to ESDGC. WAG is taking this forward across all departments and locations including the seeing-in of Green Dragon Level 5 accreditation.

In order to ensure that Wales, as a country, contributes to these objectives, WAG will encourage each organisation covered by this strategy to identify lead champions. With responsibility for ESDGC within major institutions in statutory and non-statutory sectors these people will form the conduit for information and be a focal point for development of ESDGC within organisations.

ESDGC learning champion

Claire Fowler has been appointed as Wales’ ESDG learning champion. Her role will be to encourage organisations to implement the initiatives listed in the action plan.

Further information

Liz Thomas is formal sector officer at Cyfanfyd, the Development Education Association for Wales.

First published in Learning for Life, May 2007