Global Learning Programme Wales

Learning about Sustainability

GLP-W theme: 

GLP-W outcomes:

Sustainability is a concept that has many definitions.  Most have in common these ideas: 

This needs stewardship of environmental goods such as natural resources and ecosystems, environmental services like the climate and waste absorption, and environmental qualities which are important to people’s well-being.

Sustainability is closely linked to the wider idea of sustainable development, which includes securing the needs of people in the present and in future generations.  Alongside the natural environment, it includes economic and social concerns: these three are often in tension (wind-farm development is a good example).  Sustainable development often has political and cultural dimensions, such as quality of life and citizenship at local and global scales; this is the approach taken by ESDGC in Wales.

Because environmental systems are interlinked, and people - environment relationships are important to both sustainability and sustainable development, they are also linked to the concept of interdependence.  Sustainable development recognises that people across the world have needs and wants that are often conflicting, and that our knowledge about how to proceed is often uncertain, so the skills of enquiry and critical thinking are also central.

In education, science and geography are particularly important in developing the knowledge, understanding and skills to investigate the environment and its relationship with people, whilst other parts of the curriculum, including the arts and PSE, also develop the aesthetic and citizenship aspects of learning.  As well investigating the evidence and raising awareness of issues, in ESD pupils consider alternative solutions and choose paths of action through critical and creative thinking, helping give a sense of empowerment and the realisation that they can make a difference.  This also helps avoid telling pupils what to think or do; for example, investigating fair trade:

In practice, sustainability and sustainable development are introduced at an early age in simple and concrete ways, particularly through exploring local environments, finding out how they work, how people use and impact on them, and what can be done to look after them.  Progression in pupils’ learning develops as they learn about wider or more complex environmental systems and people-environment interactions, a greater range of scales, and other dimensions such as the impact of people’s decisions and values. 

Key questions for investigation:


Contexts for investigation (adapted from ESDGC A Common Understanding for Schools, Welsh Government guidance):

Foundation Phase

Key Stage 2

Key Stage 3

 Whole school case studies

Headley Park Primary School, Bristol

Sir John Lawes School, Harpenden

St Peter's Roman Catholic High School, Manchester

The Academy of St Francis of Assisi, Liverpool

Fair trade in a Welsh special school

Sustainability days in a Welsh secondary school

Curriculum Case Studies

GLP-W school examples will be available shortly.

Key Stage 2

Literacy and science: Energy saving leaflet (exemplification from Learning Wales)

Numeracy and science: Solar Panels (exemplification from Learning Wales)

Science/geography: Why recycle? (classroom activity from Learning Wales)

Science/geography Case study 1: Marine food webs and sustainable fishing

RE Case study 2: Investigate the Jewish festival of TuB’Shevat.

Key Stage 3

Literacy and science: Global warming (exemplification from Learning Wales)

Numeracy,science and PSE: Climate Change Challenge (classroom activity from Learning Wales)

Science Case study 1: Frozen oceans

Curriculum links

Welsh policy context:


Sustainable development is a central priority for the Welsh Government, promoting development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

ESDGC themes:


  • Choices and decisions
  • Natural environment
  • Consumption and waste
  • Climate change.

Curriculum Cymreig:



  • Learning how the development of resources and technology in the past and the present can change life in Wales.


  • Learning about the relationship between the environment and the people of Wales and the effect this has on Welsh life today and in the past
  • Exploring current issues that affect the lives of people in Wales and the Welsh economy, e.g. alternative energy sources such as wind farms
  • Learning about sustainable development in Wales and the wider world.
  • Understanding that opinions on issues such as sustainability can be expressed through the decision-making process in Wales.
  • Visiting, studying and appreciating the various landscapes of Wales.