As part of The Big Ask, the largest-ever survey of children in England, which I ran last year, I asked children about their ambitions and their worries for the future.
‘A healthy environment and planet’ was the second most commonly chosen issue, with just under 2 in 5 children saying that this was their biggest worry for the future (39%).
The Big Ask showed that children and young people are acutely aware of our changing climate, and passionate about its future. That’s why I have made our Better World a key pillar of my work as Children’s Commissioner – reflecting children’s passion and compassion about the world around them.
Children spoke about the responsibility they feel towards the future of our planet in The Big Ask, as demonstrated by children’s testimonies below.
“…We need to save the planet and protect wildlife. More green jobs, homes are needed. Everything is for now not the next generation” – Boy, aged 9.
Children of all ages also told us about their future career plans and aspirations. Many were keen to work in jobs which would tackle environmental problems and talked about the need for more job opportunities in green sectors. As we heard from children:
“I think that opportunities for nature are too scarce, therefore jobs in nature are rare. I think these are the best jobs…“ – Boy, aged 12.
“…[More] focus on outdoors – environmental work, engaging with nature, social skills, financial literacy, add more courses to widen career opportunities” – Girl, aged 16.
“Pollution and the environment being ruined because currently the world isn’t in a good state, and certain children may want to explore nature life in their jobs and want to be divers or zoologists” – Boy, aged 10.
Children also wanted to learn more about how they could help the environment. As one child said:
“There could be more clubs/associations for the jobs [children/young people] want to do and more sort of freedom for children to make a change in the world (to do with things like global warming and plastic pollution)” – Girl, aged 13.
The Department for Education (DfE) recently announced a new Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy policy paper for education and children’s care services across the UK.
The strategy announced bold new plans for new qualifications, including a GCSE in Natural History a new Climate Leaders Award to celebrate children and teachers with a particular impact on climate.
The strategy also aims to bring green jobs and skills into the mainstream with the introduction of T-Levels and apprenticeships in green sectors, including a T-level in Agriculture, Land Management and Production set to launch in September 2023.
These measures are to be welcomed. As Children’s Commissioner I will continue to look for opportunities to highlight children’s views about the Better World and bring their voices to the centre of policy debates on the key issues that matter to them.