I am a Maths teacher and educational researcher, with a passion for environmental justice. I work on the Climate Change Education Research Network and various related projects. Youth-centred approaches to research and pedagogy interest me the most.
My challenge
To read (and share) five articles every week on climate justice in education.

It has taken a while to get my head back in gear after being wiped out by covid. Unfortunately the challenge I picked requires a level of intellectual engagement that was beyond me with my foggy covid brain! But finally, I have managed to get back into it today. I chose an article by someone even closer to home this time (in fact on the last CChallenge Zoom we realized we were talking to each other on a screen but were sitting either side of the same wall as our offices in the department are next to door to each other!) – Keri Facer’s 2019 article, “Climate Change: how should
public education respond

I won’t try to summarise all of Keri’s points as there are far too many to do it justice, rather I will share some of what the article provoked in me. The article discusses both opportunities and challenges for schools as public institutions to affect change in the areas of mitigation and adaptation. Facer points out that school buildings are becoming more carbon intensive and less energy efficient. For students out protesting against climate inaction at the government level, it is does not promote a sense of power or agency to return to school to see next to nothing being done to combat the problem at the local level. But Facer argues that schools do have the power to lead in this area. That power comes from their place within the community. In other words, as part of a system, as we talked about this week! Schools can host public teach-ins or set up groups of students, teachers and parents working together to bring to light issues of sustainability in terms of transport, supply chains, energy, waste etc. In fact, I have seen some fantastic examples of this over the last few years. It strikes me that we need to find more ways to shine a light on best practice and share success stories. In fact, one of my current research projects entitled “Secondary School Leadership in the Response to Climate Change” seeks to do just that by creating a case study of four schools in the Gloucestershire area.

Beyond my research, I felt a challenge to myself as a teacher and part of a school community and a wider community of educators. Particularly where Facer pointed to the lack of adequate response to the climate crisis from the largest teaching union, i.e. the NEU of which I am an active member and in fact held the role of Climate Officer in Bristol until recently. I wonder if externally it would be apparent that work has been done in this area in the last couple of years. I certainly felt a push to do more and to communicate the work better!     

Facer discusses the barriers in terms of governance models and accountability to shareholders. I agree that in this age of academization, affecting change at a system level is more difficult now. However the article recognises that there is to take advantage of this organizational freedom. In my experience, this relies on the action of particularly keen individuals. Again, this made me thinking of the Secodary School Leadership project, where we seek to identify how environmental leadership occurs organically – generally by a person or group showing enthusiasm and initiative.

Facer leaves us with the big question of “whether schools will be liberated as a powerful social resource to facilitate a civilizational shift”? I am left asking myself how we bring about this liberation… that feels like a call to action for all those who care about education and climate change!

For my first article of this challenge, I decided to read one of Karen O’Brien’s – «Climate change and social transformations: is it time for a quantum leap?».


This is one that I have had sitting in a pile (and yes, I print my climate justice articles, this feels like a strange contradiction and makes me feel guilty, but I really need to see the thing on paper to take it in and I like to scribble my notes in the margins!) for many months and hadn’t given the proper time to get into! Following the inspiring workshop to launch the climate justice challenge, I felt motivated to delve deeper into O’Brien’s ideas.

So, I made myself take half an hour away from my desk (somehow changing physical space felt important) and sit down and read this properly. It was a little bit mind-blowing and I had to close my eyes for ten minutes afterwards to take it all in. In my understanding (which I admit is limited), O’Brien is suggesting that by applying quantum social theory, rather than taking the classical Newtonian approach, the collective actions of sets of individuals can be understood to have far greater potential, due to quantum concepts such as entanglement, complementarity, uncertainty, and superposition. Hence, as collections of individuals we form part of more complex systems and our actions can influence systems and structures that previously appeared entrenched.

This feels so important in thinking about this challenge that we are taking part in (and is of course the theory it is based on). Although each of our actions may feel small, they can combine and interact in ways we may not yet be able to imagine to create big waves of change!