I’m Jamie, I’m 17 years old and based in Gloucestershire in the South West of England. I’ve recently started as a Project Coordinator at SOS-UK, working on Teach the Teacher. This project was founded by students in the Teach the Future campaign, and is now being co-funded by the Ovo Foundation and #iWill fund as part of our wider Green Schools Revolution package. As I take on this new opportunity I thought I’d share some thoughts about my journey so far with both Teach the Teacher and youth voice more generally, as well as look ahead to what’s to come from Teach the Teacher in the coming months.
I’ve been involved with youth advocacy and climate action since early 2019 and over the last four years I have helped to drive countless projects and campaigns. You might have seen my work on some of SOS-UK’s programmes such as Teach the Future, Mock COP or the Green Influencers Scheme, or you might have seen my work leading the South West in the UK Youth Parliament or leading the national charity DMK Potential. It’s safe to say I’ve been a strong advocate for youth representation and leader of change for some time.
Teach the Teacher: The Beginning
In Summer 2021, I was speaking with a colleague (Jodie Bailey-Ho) about our experiences of what (limited) discussions of climate change there had been at school. Jodie shared that her chemistry teacher was actually a climate denier, which we both found unbelievable for a science teacher. Mentioning this to the Executive Director of SOS-UK, the idea for Teach the Teacher was born! Teach the Teacher is an interactive conversational training session, delivered by students to their teachers, focusing on why, and how, climate change can be integrated in teaching across all subjects. Successfully piloted ahead of COP26, students across the globe began to have conversations with their teachers, and Jodie and Phoebe from the SOS-UK team even delivered the training to senior policy-makers at COP26 itself!
Given the success of that trial, and its continued global expansion throughout 2022, SOS UK has now secured the funding to upscale Teach the Teacher in schools across the UK over the next three years. We’ll be aiming to work with 200 schools, 600 pupils, and 3000 teachers each year, as part of our mission to improve the climate education received by thousands of secondary school students across the country as a result of this student-led teacher training.
Teach the Teacher: Today
So, why is Teach the Teacher important to run today? I’ve spent a while working on system-change campaigns, seeking to influence policy makers and achieve climate action from the top, by changing the law. And I am still adamant that that is the only way forward. So why do I believe that sending a few students into their own schools to change the attitudes of a few teachers is going to help? It’s because I believe that Teach the Teacher is part of the wider system-change campaign for climate education. Through Teach the Teacher’s success, we can demonstrate how the climate emergency can be embedded and integrated across the education system, and show why that is a good idea. Even just during our pilot, 90% of teachers supported the idea of climate education being compulsory, and believed it could be made relevant to their subject.
What’s more, through supporting students to take part in Teach the Teacher, we empower young people, building transferable skills and confidence in them, which they can use to go on and make more of a difference, for example by getting involved in system-change campaigns. We’re hoping that many students who take part in Teach the Teacher will go on to get involved in our sister campaign Teach the Future, pushing for systemic change on education policy at the heart of government.
Teach the Teacher will pile further pressure on the government to implement reforms to our education system, and increase public awareness along the way. And for those who take part - students, teachers, their families and friends - we do hope that this will be a first step in taking personal actions to support the planet, it’s just not the sole reason that we’re doing this.
So to conclude, I got involved in Teach the Teacher because I believe it has the potential to make a real impact, both on our efforts to push for integrated climate education in the curriculum, and on the young people who we support to deliver the training.
I’m excited by the opportunity to work closely with students and support them to gain the confidence and skills to go in to their schools and lead these sessions, skills which they will hold onto for life, while safe in the knowledge that every student I support is part of a bigger mission to shake up the educational establishment of the UK, better preparing the next generation of students for the greener future that we so desperately need.
Combining youth voice, youth empowerment and youth opportunities, with action on climate justice and climate education – it really is the perfect project for me!