Wait long enough and then 2022 opens with a flurry. Centre stage this month was a paper outlining the Climate Emergency and the Education Sector, and another Our Year 2022 giving a preview of what is likely to happen in Manchester’s designated ‘Year of the Child’.
Both these items generated a lot of interest and I dare to say excitement in the prospect of involving children and young people in planning for future actions. A presentation from the Head Teacher at Our Lady’s RC High School in Crumpsall showed how they are tackling the issue of climate change, encouraging the student voice and taking actions such as installing air-source heat pumps in new build. They have aspirations of being net-zero carbon emitters by 2030 (data provided regularly by the diocese) and would be keen to provide organic food for their 1000 students daily if it could be sourced economically.
Cllr Garry Bridges (Old Moat – Exec Member for Children’s Services) acknowledged that tackling climate change is a priority for the Council and that they are definitely looking to increase staff capacity. Cllr Tracy Rawlins (Baguley – Exec Member for Environment) committed to working for climate justice and wants more schools involved. It is gratifying to find that there is support amongst some councillors to work with activist groups in the city to tackle the climate emergency and that recommendations in CEM’s briefing were endorsed. Planting more trees and hedges were seen as possible solutions to air pollution, and increasing links between schools with ward climate change action plans and involvement of neighbourhood officers were encouraged.
However, different schools and colleges are tackling these issues in their own ways. Some through the school improvement plan, some via their business managers and some with enthusiastic and dedicated teachers. There is a conference planned for June 2022 where good practice will be shared. It is to be hoped that the council embraces its role in co-ordinating the dissemination of knowledge and good practice and encourages action.
Climate change was acknowledged to be a major issue for young people in the consultation carried out in 2021 ahead of Our Year. As an opportunity for Manchester to be accredited by UNICEF as a ‘child-friendly’ city, play will be an important part of this year long celebration. The website (www.ouryear.uk) will be launched in February. An open invitation has been extended for schools, businesses, the VCS and individuals to be involved.
Yet, if evidence was still needed that the climate emergency is not top of the agenda for all in the council, this is to be seen in the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Quality of Practice in Children’s Social Care overview and update. In its summary of how the report aligns to the desired outcome in the overarching Our Manchester Strategy of “A liveable and low carbon city”, again all we have are “increases the liability of the City”. Might officers and councillors take their responsibilities to mitigate this liability seriously? As said oft times before, unfortunately, it appears not. Nor was there any mention of increased liveability. For all the good practice described in the update, and of how the pandemic impacts on services provided, any thoughts of how the climate emergency might do so in the near future are left unstated.