Policy Context

National and International

The Scottish Government’s Action Plans for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-14) sets out action for all sectors of education.

In 2015 Scotland became one of the first countries in the world to sign up to the new international action plan to tackle poverty and inequality and promote sustainable development across the globe, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with education and learning as a strong thread running through each goal.

Internationally the OECD report 2015 'Improving Schools in Scotland: An OECD Perspective' set out an agenda for schools education in Scotland, highlighting the strong positive link between engagement and achievement. The OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is currently developing indicators for students' 'global competence'.


In Schools, sustainable development education, global citizenship, outdoor learning and health and well-being are firmly embedded within Curriculum for Excellence. Learning for Sustainability weaves together and builds upon these themes as outlined in the One Planet Schools Group Learning for Sustainability Report. In 2013 the Scottish Government accepted the Learning for Sustainability report's recommendations that:

  • all learners should have an entitlement to Learning for Sustainability
  • every practitioner, school and education leader should demonstrate Learning for Sustainability in their practice
  • every school should have a whole school approach to Learning for Sustainability that is robust, demonstrable, evaluated and supported by leadership at all levels
  • school buildings, grounds and policies should support Learning for Sustainability
  • a strategic national approach to supporting Learning for Sustainability should be established

In 2016 the National Implementation Group's report Vision 2030+ examined progress and set out recommendations for future actions.

From September 2016 school inspections include the need for schools to 'increase learning for sustainability'. The  How Good is Our School (4th version) self-evaluation and improvement tool includes all aspects of Learning for Sustainability.


"The professional actions, values, skills and knowledge of Learning for Sustainability are embedded within the Standards for Registration, Career-Long Professional Learning and Leadership and Management, recognising that all teachers should be confident in their knowledge and understanding of the challenges facing society locally and globally." (GTCS 2013).

Tertiary Education

There is guidance from the QAA/HEA Education for Sustainable Development: Guidance for UK higher education providers 2014 to support the tertiary sector in embracing education for sustainable development as part of the student academic experience.