1851 Trust announces ambition to support climate education of 1 million UK school pupils as research reveals over half of 11-16 year-olds are worried about what the planet will be like in the future

Climate and sustainability education are soon to become part of the school curriculum, yet young people and teachers alike are feeling ill-equipped and powerless to play their part in the vital action needed to tackle the climate emergency. In response to this, the education charity 1851 Trust has declared its ambition to help 1 million young people take action to protect nature, people and the planet through its new Protect Our Future platform. 

The announcement comes as new research amongst 11-16 year-olds commissioned by 1851 Trust and environmental charity Hubbub reveals that more than half of children (51%) are worried about what the planet will be like in the future. However, the research also found that almost a third (31%) of 11-16 year-olds say they are unclear on what measures they can take to be more environmentally friendly, which is acting as a barrier to them taking action. Only a quarter feel climate change is something they can fix, while 14% said they don’t feel like their actions will make a difference. 

Teachers are feeling similarly at a loss as to what they can do to support learning in this area, with 70% saying they do not feel equipped to teach about climate change effectively.

The Protect Our Future platform aims to inspire and help young people to understand their role in tackling climate change, empowering them to become independent thinkers and problem solvers. The appealing resources for young people and teachers will be free to use, rigorously researched and packed full of science-based knowledge, inspiration and practical actions, so they can take the lead in climate conversations and take action to help shape a more positive future for the planet. 

Protect Our Future is a collaboration between 1851 Trust and forward-thinking young people, schools, universities, brands and charities. It will provide a more holistic education experience, with an emphasis on out of the classroom learning. A pilot programme in Hull is bringing together 13 secondary schools, in partnership with Reckitt and Hull City Council, to work together over the next 18 months to help accelerate low-carbon projects to meet Hull’s net zero ambitions. The pilot was launched on 14 March, with COP26 President Alok Sharma MP and Hannah Mills OBE, the most successful female sailor in Olympic history and 1851 Trust supporter, joining students in a packaging recycling workshop. 

Now the charity is calling for more partners to support the expansion of the Protect Our Future programme to other areas of the UK and to accelerate the development of much needed resources for teachers. 

Olympic sailor and environmental campaigner, Hannah Mills OBE said: “Our planet is at a tipping point and young people are the key to protecting its future. We are not doing enough to empower young people. We need to go beyond the climate headlines and equip them with science-based knowledge and understanding.” 

Four-time Olympic gold medallist, Sir Ben Ainslie added: “Protect Our Future responds to this need by providing young people with science-based knowledge to enable them to take the lead in climate conversation. Our goal is to use our sporting success to inspire young people to Protect Our Future and the planet.” 

Ben Cartledge, CEO of 1851 Trust said: “Young people are key to protecting the future of our planet, yet our research has shown they’re angry, they’re worried and they are not clear on what action they can take that will make a difference.Protect Our Future aims to empower both young people and their teachers – giving them the knowledge, skills and voice to speak with confidence about climate change and sustainability. 

“We know from our experience of developing science-based resources which are used by over half of UK secondary schools, that young people are inspired by real people who aren’t just talking theoretically. 

We are applying this approach to make sure the resources for Protect Our Future inspire real action to tackle climate change. We would love to hear from potential content and funding partners to help us grow the platform and develop new events, resources and content for young people, parents and teachers.” 

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