New Environmental Qualification Available to NI Students Aged 14+

GCSE and AS level students in Northern Ireland will be able to gain a brand-new environmental qualification in climate change and environmental action from September. The new OCN NI Level 2 Certificate in Reducing Carbon Footprints Through Environmental Action has just been added to the Department of Education list of courses approved for teaching in schools in Northern Ireland (NIEFQAN) and will be awarded by the Open College Network, Northern Ireland (OCN NI).

Students will have the opportunity to follow a selection of project-based modules in ‘Understanding the role of Carbon in Climate Change’, ‘Biodiversity Recovery’, ‘Tackling Single-Use Plastics’, ‘Fast Fashion’ and ‘Climate Campaigning’. The qualification is fully assessed through coursework.

To date almost 30 teachers in Northern Ireland have completed a free Carbon Literacy training course, funded by Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), to enable teachers to support and deliver carbon literacy programmes for students within their schools.

Environmental qualification

Nicole Sloan, who teaches at Foyle College, has recently had a number of students complete an initial pilot of the Carbon Smart Students carbon literacy course, funded by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). She says she is excited about the new OCN NI course and the opportunities it will open up for students to obtain a formally recognised qualification in climate change;

“I think this new opportunity to gain a formal qualification in climate change and carbon literacy is hugely significant. Our school has been an active member of Eco-Schools for a number of years and we’ve seen the benefits that has brought to so many of our students.

“It has broadened their outlook and enabled them to link and cross-reference other parts of the curriculum as part of a global and green theme, which I think is so important for their futures. Our students found the initial carbon literacy training that they have now completed, enlightening and very empowering.

“They took their time to really absorb all of the information they were given, discussed it at home and have started to apply changes in their own lives. These changes are to lower their carbon footprint which will make a difference locally and globally, for people now and for generations to come. Knowledge is power and no matter which path a young person intends to follow career-wise, this knowledge is important now.”

Charlene McKeown who manages the Eco-Schools NI programme for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said; “We envisage schools taking this new qualification on board as a Key Stage 4 option to complement courses like Geography or Travel and Tourism. The development of this new qualification has been a hugely positive collaboration between a number of organisations with an exciting outcome for young people.”

Martin Flynn, Chief Executive from OCN NI said; “We are delighted to have been able to develop this innovative qualification on climate change and environmental action. Working in collaboration with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and Action Renewables, we believe that the new qualifications, which will be available to schools and their students from September 2022, will prove to be an extremely popular choice with young people. The younger generation has already demonstrated their growing passion to not only understand the climate change debate but are committed to taking action which will help halt and reverse its effects in the future. Initial feedback from our partners in the schools’ sector is extremely positive and we are looking forward to rolling out the innovative new qualification from September.”

Terry Waugh, CEO of Action Renewables said; “Our funding towards the development of a branded Climate Advocacy resource pack to support the teaching of this new qualification is very exciting and strengthens our charitable objectives in the education of young people.”

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