The rise of eco-anxiety represents a challenge for schools. According to a recent survey, almost two-thirds of young people are “very or extremely worried” about climate change, while over 45% report that their eco-anxiety “negatively affected their daily life and functioning”. As you may be aware, our ‘All pupils, every ambition’ campaign is about equipping pupils with the tools they need to succeed in life. When wider societal issues such as climate change impact their wellbeing outside of school, educators may feel powerless to help. However, with the right resources and knowledge, schools and governors can work together to help young people address some of society’s greatest challenges head-on.

What can governors do to support eco-anxious young people?

Governors can support school leaders by asking whether they’ve put provisions in place to address societal issues stemming from climate change. Many school staff don’t have the time or resources to learn about the complex relationship between mental health and climate science, so it’s worth considering whether external organisations could help you address these questions or assess whether the topic is covered as part of staff CPD. Force of Nature is one such organisation that may be of interest to school leadership teams.

According to Sophie Palmer, Executive Assistance at Force of Nature: “At Force of Nature, we believe that eco-anxiety is a rational, healthy and normal response to an uncertain future that we’ve inherited. These uncomfortable feelings are a sign that we are awake to the crisis, and that we care.

“Through our programmes, we facilitate conversations about the climate crisis whilst safeguarding young people, navigating strong and valid feelings, fostering emotional resilience, and developing a sense of community. In addition to our classrooms, we offer a range of resources and training opportunities designed to equip educators with the skills needed to guide difficult conversations and improve school curricula.”

Another charity working to address eco-anxiety in schools is Global Action Plan. Morgan Phillips, Head of Education and Youth Engagement for the charity, explains: “We’re huge advocates for project-based learning, especially programmes that enable young people to work together over several weeks or months.

“We are the global coordinators of the Dirt Is Good Project, providing education practitioners with a handbook to enable learners to tackle real-world environmental and social justice problems. Global Action Plan also coordinates the Transform Our World platform, which is a directory for teachers to access the best environmental education resources, programmes, and tools. Finally, we have a Climate Action Planner, the perfect accompaniment to a project-based learning approach to climate action.”

In discussing these kinds of provisions, governors can help nurture a generation of healthy, happy young people ready to take on the challenges of the modern world. Key questions to ask during board meetings could include:

  • Does the school know what forms of support are on offer?
  • Do plans to address global issues align with the school’s overall values and vision?
  • How will we measure success in this area?
  • Does the school have an active plan to support young people experiencing mental health difficulties related to societal issues such as climate change?

Senior leaders may also wish to include students in conversations about eco-anxiety and mental health provisions, as this will enhance their feelings of agency and empower them to take meaningful action.

Volunteer as a governor today!

Are you keen to help today’s younger generation blossom into future change-makers? Strong governance represents an excellent way to help schools achieve this goal. Apply to become a governor today and make a genuine difference in your community.