The headteacher column with Steve Woodhouse

Steve Woodhouse, executive headteacher of the Wolds Federation of Schools.
Steve Woodhouse, executive headteacher of the Wolds Federation of Schools.

I recently spent two days being trained as a Global-Learning Lead Practitioner. One of my schools, Middleton on the Wolds, has been designated as an Expert Centre for the project.

We will work with approximately 15 schools from across the East Riding to develop each school’s primary curriculum.

Pollution was just one of the issues discussed during the training.

Pollution was just one of the issues discussed during the training.

The training took place at the University of Warwick and it was a privilege to work with so many like-minded professionals. In such a short time, I feel I have learnt a great deal and have begun to challenge some of my own assumptions about the world round us.

The Global Learning Programme (GLP) aims to create a national network of schools, committed to equipping their pupils to succeed in a globalised world by helping their teachers to deliver effective teaching and learning about development and global issues at Key Stages 2 and 3.

By giving schools the tools to embed global learning into teaching across the curriculum, the GLP is designed to help schools to meet Ofsted requirements; prepare pupils for modern life by promoting values such as empathy, fairness and respect; develop and enhance enquiry and critical thinking; and expand their global awareness.

Thousands of GLP schools across the country are already experiencing the positive impact that global learning can have on pupils’ engagement, knowledge, skills and values.

During my two days of training, we focused upon many things, one being greenhouse gases.

Personally, I expected one of the largest emitters of CO₂ to be China and was surprised to learn that they are responsible for 8.4%, much less than the 24.8% coming out of Europe. The USA tops the offenders list with 29.6%.

I believe it is important for our children to know about these things and feel empowered to do something about it.

The areas of the world with the lowest emissions, such as sub-Saharan Africa 0.5% and India 2.4%, are the places that suffer most from the climatic changes associated with global warming. The greatest polluters suffer the least – a sign perhaps of a world of inequalities. As educators, we need to make sure that our young people understand these issues as they move through our schools.

We also need to ensure that they critically evaluate and challenge the political bias our media exposes them to.

Many of us will have spent time in the supermarket deciding which fruit and vegetables to purchase.

We may consciously choose the UK option to cut down on the air miles associated with their transportation, or to support our local farmers. According to Oxfam, we may be making ill-informed choices.

Much of the imported produce is shipped rather than flown in and far less environmentally damaging than the heated greenhouses used in the UK.

Making the right decision isn’t the point here though; it’s about teaching the children to at least consider their options and make informed decisions.

Of course we want to support our local economies, but we need to understand the processes.

Oxfam provide us with four main areas where we can make a real difference: 1) Buy Fairtrade products. Fairtrade aims to alleviate poverty among producers and promote sustainable development; 2) Drive less. Cars contribute about 40% of the total external costs of food transport;

3) Waste less. According to the UK Government, fruit and vegetables make up 42% of household food waste by weight, making them the largest single contributor;

4) Eat less meat and dairy. Globally, livestock contribute to nearly 80% of agricultural greenhouse gases.

The greenhouse gas issue is just one of many. Through joining the GLP our local school children will begin to learn a great deal more about the world around them and start to question what is ethically right.

I believe it to be a real step forward and I am very proud to be leading our East Riding Expert Centre.