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Sustainable Development Education

In 1998, the Government set up the Sustainable Development Education Panel, an advisory NDPB whose remit covered schools, further and higher education bodies, and education in work, recreation and the home. The Panel was jointly sponsored by DfES and Defra (previously DfEE and DETR).

The Panel's five year term has now come to an end (its final meeting was in February 2003), but its work is being taken forward in other ways. Most notably, Defra is working with and fully supports DfES in creating a Sustainable Development Action Plan for the education sector which will build on the foundation of the Panel's draft Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in England Adobe Acrobat PDF file (70 KB) presented to Ministers at the Panel's last meeting in February 2003.

This Action Plan was launched on 23 September 2003 and addresses many of the recommendations made by the Environmental Audit Committee in its recent report Learning the Sustainability Lesson. The Action Plan aims to encourage wider participation in sustainable development in ALL education and skills sectors. A sounding board of stakeholders, including environmental organisations, is involved in ongoing discussions on the plan.

History of the SDEP
What the Panel Achieved
Membership of the SDEP
Panel Terms of reference

History of the SDEP

On 27 February 1998 the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education and Employment set up an advisory panel of sustainable development education experts, made up of members of business, local government, education and voluntary sectors. Its terms of reference were to work together to identify gaps, opportunities, priorities and partnerships for action in providing sustainable development education in England, and to highlight good practice.

What the Panel achieved

The Panel had 21 members, held 52 meetings, and established subgroups looking at Schools, Work and the Professions, Lifelong Learning, and Developing a Template for ESD sector guides. The Panel has formally submitted its first (1998), Second (1999), Third (2000), Fourth (2001) and Fifth (2003) Annual Reports to the Government, a draft strategy on education for sustainable development in England, and made representations in respect of Government consultations, notably the Qualifications and Assessment Authority's review of the National Curriculum and DfES's of National Training Organisations. The Panel has also commissioned consultancy work providing information and developing ideas to take forward its strategy and published guidance for a range of sectors. Its secretariat was provided jointly by Defra and DfES. Ministers announced the winding up of the Panel through an open letter on 25 February 2003.

Panel Terms of Reference


To consider issues on education for sustainable development, in its broadest sense, in schools, further and higher education, at work, during recreation and at home; and to make practical recommendations for action in England. The Panel reported directly to the Secretaries of State for Education and Skills and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.


1. To promote a strategic approach to sustainable development education in England;
2. To identify gaps and opportunities in the provision of sustainable development education and consider how to improve that provision;
3. To promote an approach which will reduce duplication, increase co-operation and develop synergy between all sectors and groups involved;
4. To consider whether and what targets should be set for various sectors;
5. To highlight best practice and consider the means of disseminating it more widely;
6. To make recommendations to key stakeholders on priority areas for action;
7. To assess the effectiveness of this approach.

Learning Guides

Workplace Sustainable Development Education Learning Guides (See also this News Release, 24 September 2002)

Panel Reports and Responses

Panel Meetings

Panel Consultancies

Other Panel Material

Resources Code

Review of the Sustainable Development Education Panel

Further information is available on our Help page about downloading or reading Adobe Acrobat PDF documents.

  Page last modified 27 October 2003
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