Climate Change: A Safeguarding Issue?

Before I start, all my education work via the Geogramblings’ “Life Geographic” blog is done all in my spare time, at my own cost but is free for you to access and enjoy. If you can spare a few pence, I’d be delighted if you could show your thanks by ‘buying me a coffee. Thank you!

This week, the Autumn 2020 edition of the Geographical Association’s GA magazine was published. If you are a GA member or a subscriber to the magazine, head over to and have a good read! There are a always a brilliant range of goodies, tips, thoughts for geography educators at all ages. Included is an article by Rouna Ali, a fellow member of the Decolonising Geography working group, giving a summary of the work that is going on and how other can join in. The group helped me put together a Decolonising Geography ‘101’ video a couple of months back. Check it out here.

Also published in the magazine is an article I authored titled “Climate Change – A Safeguarding Issue?”

I am very proud of this particular piece, as it is brings together two things I am very passionate about. With stigma and barriers in dealing with mental health dropping, the rise of eco-anxiety and the impacts of climate change becoming more tangible, I feel now is the right time to put forward the argument that climate change issues should be considered when it comes to a school’s safeguarding duties.

To read the full article, you’ll need to access it via the GA website as a GA member or magazine subscriber. But here’s a synopsis which can get you thinking. If you don’t have access to the full article, don’t hesitate to get in touch to pick my brain!

Statements such as, ‘All teachers have a duty to safeguard their students’ are as familiar as they are unimpeachable. There is little room for interpretation in how different education establishments approach strict statutory guidance for keeping children safe, but we can expand within that guidance. How about, ‘All teachers must aid students to safeguard themselves and others, including giving them the knowledge and understanding to make informed decisions to do so’? This, to me, is key to the success of safeguarding. Call it what you will: building resilience, being aware and mitigating own risks, and so forth. We teach children to cross the road safely, rather than acting as a crossing guard for their entire lives, after all. Of course, the danger from traffic is one of the myriad things that we need to protect children from and such everyday risks usually don’t get singled for mention in safeguarding policies. Rather it is issues such as online safety, various forms of abuse, radicalisation, to name a few, that do, and justifiably so. But what about climate change?

The article sets out an argument that now is the time for climate change to have its own focus in safeguarding policy, and to go beyond just tentatively linking issues such as eco-anxiety to official mental health guidance for schools. The probability that each of us will teach students who are directly impacted by events attributable to climate change is increasing, whether it is the loss of a stable home due to flooding, or indeed the mental-health impacts. The article poses some questions that schools could ask themselves in order to develop their own approaches in incorporating climate change into safeguarding policies, such as:

  • Are there children who are at greater risk to eco-anxiety and what are their risk factors?
  • Is the school catchment area situated in an area that is at risk, or increasingly at risk, of events attributable to climate change?
  • What messages of positivity or empowerment (e.g. successful efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, community projects) are being communicated?

How a school chooses to formalise, mandate and act on the outcomes of such discussions should be the next step. Since we all have a duty of safeguarding, when it comes to the issue of climate change, providing a safe environment and activities that focus on empowerment, success and change are things we can all do.

Thanks to Climate Nexus (who run the Climate Signals website) and Clover Hogan (Force of Nature) for their support, help and advice.

References cited in the article:

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