Policy for the Departments of Education and the Environment


A Missed Opportunity?

Education, training, and knowledge were key themes of the UKs first white paper: This Common Inheritance(1990).This ground-breaking strategy stressed that decisions on how to protect our environment would be determined on a “sound understanding of the underlying science, of the natural processes at work ,of the effects of humanity on the environment  and of the environment on human health and wellbeing.” To assess the need for environmental awareness and understanding in the workforce and how further and higher education institutions might respond, the Government(Department for Education-DFE) set up a high-profile expert committee on environmental education under the chairmanship of Professor Peter Toyne-Vice Chancellor of Liverpool University in October 1991. I served in this committee and most of its sub committees from its inception as the DFE advisor(Observer) as well as  drafting this as one of the key  priority outcomes of the Department for the Environment white paper. These were tremendously optimistic times for anyone who was deeply engaged and committed in seeking solutions to the existential threats of climate change, environmental pollution and increasingly our unsustainable lifestyles.

Perhaps, more than anything the publication of the so called Toyne report in 1993 initiated a flood of events and stimulated a whole new cadre of research and course developments in Further and Higher education- which to this day are playing a key role in how we meet the twin global challenges of climate change and loss of biodiversity.

The reports main finding were:

  • All institutions formally adopt a comprehensive environmental policy statement by 1994/5
  • All institutions to extend their involvement in environment-related updating courses for the workforce
  • All institutions explore the scope for staff secondment between industry and education
  • Funds for a national programme to support the development of teaching and learning materials to be made available
  • A national appraisal of progress in HE be undertaken no later than 1995/6

Regrettably, looking back over the past 28 years these massively important and prescient foundations- especially  now in the light of the UK hosting the forthcoming COP26 meeting-were never fully met nor widely adopted.

In August 1993 I published a short analysis of the Toyne Report in the Integrated Environmental Management newsletter, which can be found here.

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