It’s happening! Climate Emergency and the Education Sector at Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee

Hold on to your hats. On 12th January 2022, Manchester City Council’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee will have a dedicated item on ‘Climate Emergency and the Education Sector’.

That’s right, one whole item. This has been a long time coming and is thanks to pressure from multiple directions (including from a number of committed councillors). CEM has made clear that all scrutiny committees must discuss the climate emergency, as this cross-cutting crisis affects all areas of the Council’s work. Our Team Scrutiny reporter, Mike Franks, has tracked the Children for Young People’s scrutiny committee for exactly 12 months this January, Over that entire year, there has been zero discussion of the climate emergency. Just as there was none throughout 2019, while young people around the world made it clear how important this issue was to their lives, their future.

The report and ‘action plan’ that has finally come to the scrutiny committee follows a familiar pattern: there is much to be welcomed but a curious dearth of numbers and dates, anything SMART. Good initiatives are stuck at the pilot stage (20 schools across the city have had a School Streets ‘taster day’). Of course, local authorities have less direct influence over schools than they did a decade ago (it is a mixed landscape of maintained schools and academies). But the report lacks ambition in the areas where council influence remains strong: supply of energy generation and buildings. The Year of the Child has been rebranded ‘Our Year’, but MCC still seem to regard this as a time for young people to ‘have their voices heard’ (with accompanying photo shoots) rather than for young people to exercise influence and decision-making responsibilities. Young people get system change. We don’t have reduce their role to bin monitors. The new DfE strategy may seek to depoliticise and decentre young people, but Manchester City Council does not have to follow suit.

Ahead of the meeting, Mike Franks (assisted by researchers Abbie Hawkins and Hannah Ballard) has produced a briefing note for councillors. It makes two key recommendations:
1. Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee should receive at least two updates annually on progress in tackling the climate emergency. The January 2022 report cannot be a one-off (or a once every 3-4 years occurrence). The issues are too broad, and too urgent.
2. Manchester City Council should coordinate a coherent response to retrofitting and installation of low-carbon energy for heating and electricity supply in schools. By its own admission (in 1.3 of the report) “the City Council procures energy for over 90% of the schools and is therefore well placed to work with and support schools in reducing their carbon footprints”.

Our briefing note also asks what good looks like elsewhere. We like to WAGGLE at CEM and education is a sector where, because of its diversity and decentralisation, there may be good initiatives which we can learn from beyond Manchester.

If you are involved in education at any level, in any capacity, this item is a must watch (on Vimeo here). And if you know of work underway by a school or education institution that may have been overlooked, let us know. We’re keen to hear from you at contact@climateemergencymanchester.net

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