Schools unprepared for climate emergency

25 October 2021

New research by Ecclesiastical reveals three quarters of school leaders believe their school is unprepared for the climate emergency

In the lead up to COP26, new research1 commissioned by specialist education insurer Ecclesiastical has revealed three quarters (76%) of UK school leaders believe their school is unprepared for the climate emergency.

Extreme weather

The UN’s IPCC 2021 report2 has warned that human-influenced global warming is already affecting many weather and climate extremes such as heatwaves, flash flooding and droughts.

The survey revealed nine in 10 (89%) school leaders are concerned about how climate change may impact their school.

Of those concerned, the impact of extreme weather to school grounds (33%) was cited as the biggest concern, followed by managing heatwaves within the school environment (31%), impact on staff safety (30%) and school closures due to extreme weather conditions (30%). The impact of extreme weather to school property (29%) and coastal erosion impacting school grounds (28%) are also key concerns.

Extreme weather is already affecting many schools in the UK. Most recently, in September, schools in Wirral were forced to close due to the impacts of torrential rain, thunderstorms and flooding3.

Aiming for Net Zero

Seven in 10 (70%) school leaders surveyed believe the pressure on schools is growing to be more sustainable and the majority of schools (95%) are concerned about their energy consumption.

Many schools are responding to the climate crisis by reducing their carbon footprint. In fact most schools are either setting targets to be Net Zero (47%) or are currently Net Zero (44%). Just 9% of UK schools are not setting targets to achieve Net Zero.

Of those who are setting targets, on average schools plan to be Net Zero by 2024.

Preparing for the climate emergency

The majority (96%) of schools are taking steps to prepare for climate change and the climate emergency.

Adopting cycle to work schemes, (41%), encouraging people to share transport where possible (39%), investing in greener building solutions (38%) and reducing single use waste (38%) are the top four ways schools are preparing. This is closely followed by analysing their greenhouse gas emissions (36%) and buying from sustainable suppliers (36%).

Despite many schools taking steps to prepare for the climate emergency, most school leaders feel they need support with adaptation to climate change (72%).

Understanding the school’s direct carbon footprint Scope 1&2 (30%) and indirect footprint Scope 3 (27%) is the support needed most by school leaders. Followed by support understanding sustainable energy sources (23%) and how to engage staff and pupils in the changes (23%).

Faith Kitchen, Customer Segment Director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, said: “As one of the leading insurers of schools in the UK, Ecclesiastical is passionate about supporting the education sector. Our latest research has found the majority of school leaders are concerned about how climate change may impact their school and three quarters feel their school is unprepared for the climate emergency. The climate emergency presents serious risks to schools and the impact of extreme weather on school properties and grounds are key concerns for school leaders.”

Ecclesiastical Insurance offers a range of risk management support and guidance to help schools manage the risks they face. For more information, visit the Hub for Education.

1 The survey was commissioned by Ecclesiastical Insurance and conducted by OnePoll with 275 UK head teachers, bursars and governors from 3 September – 15 September 2021.

2 Climate change widespread, rapid, and intensifying – IPCC — IPCC

3 Schools announce closures after flooding causes severe damage - Liverpool Echo