Although this chapter is based on the National Curriculum in England, the principles enunciated which led environmental education to be recognized as a cross-curricular theme, are applicable to curriculum development anywhere. We hope readers outside England will gain benefit from it, for however it is described, environmental education is inter-disciplinary and spreads influence across the whole-school curriculum.
Discussion at UK government level at present focuses on whether environmental education should have a statutory place in the National Curriculum rather than as a ‘voluntary’ cross-curricular theme. Any decision in no way alters our thinking behind this chapter.
Environmental education is an officially recognized and documented cross-curricular theme of the National Curriculum for schools. It is one of the first five themes to be documented, alongside health education, education for citizenship, careers education and guidance, and economic and industrial understanding. Themes are regarded not as an appendage to be ‘tacked on’ to the core and foundation subjects, but as a central element of the curriculum as a whole, having progression and continuity like all subject areas. By definition, they are cross-curricular, and thus can feature in or arise out of a number of other areas of the curriculum. The themes share the ability to promote thinking and discussion on questions of values and belief; they add to knowledge and understanding; and they rely on practical, experiential learning and decision making. Schools have freedom to interpret the guidelines for the various themes and to decide how best to incorporate them into the curriculum as a whole.
In primary schools they can be adapted either to the theme or topic approach, a common method of organising the curriculum, or to more formal subject teaching…they will often be identified as threads running through topics and through subjects…. In