RCE Scotland - 2022


United Kingdom
Connecting Youth Work and Learning for Sustainability (ESD)
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Connecting Youth Work and Learning for Sustainability (ESD)
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Scotland
Contributing organization(s) : 
Partnership between RCE Scotland and Youthlink Scotland
Contributions from the Scottish Government, Children’s Parliament, Young Scot, North Lanarkshire Council, Youth Scotland, Education Scotland, Scotdec, St Modan’s High School, Stirling Council, FARE Scotland, St Mungo’s Primary School, The Outward Bound Trust, TCV, Highland One World; John Muir Award

Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Betsy King
Organizational Affiliation: 
RCE Scotland
Naomi Dixon
Organizational Affiliation: 
Youthlink Scotland
Format of project: 
Online Workshops
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Friday, August 12, 2022
Scottish Government Learning for Sustainability Action Plan
At what level is the policy operating?: 
National Youth Work Strategy (Scotland)
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Children's rights
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Geographical & Education Information
Address of focal point institution for project: 
RCE Scotland, Charteris Land, Moray House
University of Edinburgh
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
Youth (informal)

Scotland is a country within the United Kingdom with a population of approximately 5.47 million. The natural environment of the region is diverse; from large urban areas to uninhabitable islands, and from highlands to lochs (lakes) and lowlands. However, even in very urban areas, there is an appreciation for the region’s natural beauty with the majority of inhabitants directly exposed to the natural environment regularly. This exposure is likely to contribute to a general appreciation for and desire to preserve natural resources, embedded within the Scottish psyche.

In the 2011 census the rate of population growth was indicated at 0.54%, with net migration at 4.1 migrants per 1,000 population. Immigration from other UK countries to Scotland is the highest migrant contribution, with 'White British Other' contributing to 7.34% of the total population of Scotland, second highest ethnic group after 'Scottish' (88.09%). The region also has a 99% literacy rate (2010 estimate).

Scotland has partial self-government within the UK with devolved legislative powers over matters such as education, health and transport, as specified in the Scotland Acts 1998 and 2012.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
The policy framework in place in Scotland to address the SDGs is embedded at national level through the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework. The NPF is Scotland’s wellbeing framework and the SDGs share the same aims contained in this: to encourage transformational social, economic and environmental change to achieve increased wellbeing and a more peaceful and prosperous future, recognising our assets and their relevance to future generations as well as our use and distribution of resources.

RCE Scotland was a key partner collaborating with the SDG Network, Scottish Government and the Convention on Scottish Local Authorities to publish Scotland and the sustainable development goals: a national review to drive action in 2020(https://www.gov.scot/publications/scotland-sustainable-development-goals-national-review-drive-action/pages/21/).
While acknowledging progress on addressing the SDGs in Scotland challenges were identified in relation to each of the SDGs.

Learning is required to address all the SDGs and ESD in general is embedded within Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence and national policies such as Learning for Sustainability (LfS).

The policy focus to date has been on ESD, known in Scotland as 'Learning for Sustainability' in formal education: schools, colleges and universities and this project addresses the challenge in informal and non-formal learning, known as community learning and development (CLD) in Scotland. Youth work is a key part of CLD and support is needed to enable youth work practitioners to support young people in building the values, attitudes, knowledge, skills and confidence needed to develop practices and take decisions that are compatible with a sustainable and equitable society.

October, 2020

“Our vision is of a flourishing Scotland where sustainable and socially-just practices are the norm.... and our roles and responsibilities within a globally-interdependent world are recognised…learners are educated through their landscape and understand their environment, culture and heritage; and develop a sense of place and belonging to their local, national and global community, with a deep connection to the natural world. Here, learners will understand the significance of their choices, now and in the future.”
The Report of the One Planet Schools Working Group (November 2012)

The youth work sector and youth work practitioners in Scotland have the potential to play a key role in working with young people to achieve Scotland’s 2030 vision. Scotland’s youth work sector is rich and diverse with a workforce in excess of 75,000 – including over 70,000 adult volunteers. It reaches in excess of 380,000 young people in youth work opportunities each week.

Youth work has three essential features based around young people making their own choices, building from where they are and recognising they are partners in a learning process. Youth work outcomes have been developed by the sector in Scotland and can be achieved in a range of youth work contexts and practices.

Many youth work approaches align with effective ESD approaches, but there is anecdotal evidence that practitioners lack confidence in engaging young people with sustainability issues.

This partnership programme of online participatory workshops was developed through collaboration between RCE Scotland and Youthlink Scotland, Scotland’s national agency for youth work representing voluntary and statutory youth work organisations.

The objectives of the programme for youth work practitioners are to:
• Support the inclusion of Learning for Sustainability themes and approaches in youth work
• Promote the benefits and opportunities of getting young people involved in Learning for Sustainability
• Share and celebrate examples of youth work from around Scotland
• Inspire new thinking and approaches for engaging young people
• Help find the support needed to take action
Activities and/or practices employed: 
A successful and well-attended ongoing series of themed participative online workshops has been delivered, building on the impetus provided by the pandemic and the hosting of COP26 in Glasgow. Themes to date have included:
• Introducing Learning for Sustainability and Youth Work
• Supporting young people to take action
• School – Youth Work Partnerships
• Beyond COP26: LfS and Young People in Scotland
• Co-creating a fair and green future with young people

A further event, ‘’Putting young people at the centre’ round table’’: will be held in October 2022; connecting Youth Work, Learning for Sustainability and the forthcoming Scottish Government-led strategic National Discussion on Education.

Each facilitated 90-minute workshop introduces the theme, shares inspiring case studies and involves small group discussion and plenary sharing. In and post-workshop evaluations were undertaken using Mentimeter and survey questionnaires.

Size of academic audience: 
An average of 100 participants have registered for each of these workshops, drawn from Scotland and further afield
To date these workshops have engaged up to 500 youth work practitioners in developing new ways to support young people to take personal and collective action that will contribute towards a more sustainable society. Results from the events to date can be found in the recordings and materials below.






Lessons learned: 
• Youth workers welcomed the opportunity to find out more about ESD; this is an area that young people feel passionately about

• Youth workers were reassured that their existing approaches align strongly with effective ESD approaches

• Online workshops were more inclusive than previous RCE Scotland face to face sessions with other sectors, engaging with large numbers of participants from all over Scotland

• Participants particularly valued sharing examples of practice

• Inviting participants’ views on themes for future sessions was a successful way of encouraging engagement in multiple workshops

• Workshops that will engage Youth workers need to be held outside conventional working hours

Key messages: 
Youth workers have the potential to be key actors supporting young people to understand and take action on the sustainable development challenges that matter to them, and motivating them to make transformational changes. This programme of partnership workshops empowers and equips practitioners with the knowledge, skills, values and behaviors required.
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
RCE Scotland is working, in collaboration with the Scottish Government, towards refreshing Scotland’s Learning for Sustainability Action Plan. This programme contributes towards developing the Plan beyond formal education to non-formal and informal education.

This programme is part of RCE Scotland’s Youth programme, supported by the Youth Coordinator (Laura Curtis-Moss)


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Key Messages from Young People
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere 
SDG 2 - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture 
SDG 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages 
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 5 - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls 
SDG 6 - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all 
SDG 7 - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 
SDG 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all 
SDG 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation 
SDG 10 - Reduce inequality within and among countries 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
SDG 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development 
SDG 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss 
SDG 16 - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels 
SDG 17 - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development 
Plants & Animals 
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 3 - Developing capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Mobilizing youth 
I acknowledge the above: