University of Worcester’s Teaching on Sustainability Highlighted in Government Report


Teaching activities used in the University’s Secondary PGCE Geography course have featured in a Voluntary National Review of progress towards fulfilling the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as examples of things taking place in education.

Elena Lengthorn, Senior Lecturer and PGCE Geography Subject Lead, has spearheaded the drive to include the SDGs in trainee teacher education. She said: “I’m delighted that this practice has been recognised and shared. I’m really keen to find out what other teacher educators are doing to drive the SDGs forwards.  If teachers have the confidence, the knowledge and the impetus to teach about the SDGs, that is more likely to happen, even if it is not in the statutory framework.  We know there is an appetite and also a real need to be thinking about a sustainable future for the next generation.  The evidence shows that teachers want to be doing it and so do pupils.”

The Voluntary Review examines how the UK is proceeding with meeting the United Nation’s aims on sustainability up to 2030, and has been reported back to the UN.  The University of Worcester submitted its work on embedding the SDGs into the PGCE Geography course to the Review.

The United Nations’ 17 SDGs, endorsed by 190 countries, include affordable and clean energy, climate action, but also wider goals like ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, gender equality, health and wellbeing, and sustainable cities and communities.

Trainee teachers on the University of Worcester’s PGCE Geography course are introduced to the UN’s Goals in their first week.  Then in pairs they must pick one of the goals for their first ever lesson in the classroom as part of a Citizenship Day for Year 8 pupils at a local school.  Pupils are taught a series of lessons by the trainees during the day looking at different goals.  The scheme has been running two years and aims to educate pupils about the issues, but also inspire them to consider how they could make a difference.  Beyond this, the Sustainability Goals are embedded into the course more widely.

“The Goals are a universal call to action,” said Ms Lengthorn. “You have to have awareness of the problems of poverty, conflict and climate change in order to take action.  SDGs education has the potential to have a massive impact on the protection of the planet and ensure that the population lives in peace and prosperity.”

Earlier this year, the University of Worcester was named number one in the UK for Quality Education in the Times Higher Education’s (THE) University Impact Rankings, which are based on the contribution made by universities around the world to achieving the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals.

Over 500 universities from 80 countries were meticulously and independently assessed by the THE and Worcester was ranked 33rd overall.

Factors assessed include: promoting good health and wellbeing; quality education; gender equality and economic growth; reducing inequalities; building sustainable cities and communities; and achieving responsible consumption and production.