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TEXTILES ACTION FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE:  Making it Succeed in the Curriculum

Dawn Foxall (Founder Textiles Skills Centre)

This is now an online On-Demand course:


Online Course Tackling Sustainability & Climate Change  &  How we can deliver this through a textiles lens

This course uses presentations and materials collated for the Textiles Action For A Sustainable Future conference in June 2023. It focuses on sustainability and climate change, and how textiles education can make practical differences, using case studies approaches from businesses, NGOs and teachers.


Textiles Skills Centre have taken on board the urgency of Climate and Environmental Sustainability!   We need to become part of the Solution, not part of the Pollution!

As educators, we have been tasked to equip and empower young people with the tools to tackle the climate change challenge. Textiles Skills centre online on-demand course aims to give up-to-date information, advice and practical guidance on integrating climate education into D&T and Art & Design Textiles courses.

The focus is on the Fashion & Textiles industry and curriculum, with sustainability experts from high street clothing brands such as PRIMARK and Marks & Spencers; Designers such as Wayne Hemmingway; Climate experts from the MET OFFICE; Manufacturers and Education leaders, discussing how they are addressing the challenges of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance – standards measuring a business’s impact on society, the environment, and how transparent and accountable it is) and climate change action and how this can be integrated into the curriculum. They will be identifying and outlining how a step change in climate and sustainability education can be made, so that young people have the skills and knowledge needed for the 21st century.

Fashion climate change image

Sustainability in education is being addressed by several groups and associations, including The British Educational Research Association (BERA) who published a manifesto:  EDUCATION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: A Guide For Schools

This guide was based on findings from a study to analyse where we are now with education for environmental sustainability, what change is needed, and the barriers to this change.

A summary of the findings showed:

  • Undervaluing of environmental sustainability in government policy, budgetary constraints for schools, the nature of the curriculum and assessment.
  • Prioritising economic considerations in decision-making, teacher workload, exam pressures and constraints, and insufficient confidence, knowledge and agency for all members of the school community.

Download the report HERE

Textiles, Art and Design & Technology subjects are the obvious place to start to embed understanding and knowledge of sustainability and moral values, which could be carried forward into the new generation of artists and designers. We must, however, address the current issues within the subjects of just ‘designing more stuff’ and re-educating textiles and art teachers right from GCSE through to degree level, to update the curriculum and stay connected to the needs of the textiles industry.

We know the fashion and textiles industry is one of the biggest global industries and the most resource-consuming due to its fast cycles, vast consumption, and global supply networks. The practice of sustainability within such an industry is incredibly difficult, with every stage of a garment’s life cycle impacting on climate and the environment.

However, a recent study with students demonstrated there is still a lack of awareness of the full impact of the industry and understanding of what sustainable fashion actually is. When pressed further, most students focused on the repair, reuse, and recycling as their interpretation of fashion sustainability, with little consideration of ethical/social injustice involved in making garments/textile products and the impact that raw materials and resources (water, energy, etc.) had on the planet. This links to the potential barriers of consumption around price and consumers lack of awareness of the environmental impacts that enable fast fashion to be so cheaply priced.
Drapers : Sustainability and the Consumer Report 2022 

Sustainable fashion image

The fact is that as educators we are in the perfect place to deliver this message and ensure that young people understand fully the impact of their consumption habits and change their attitudes towards consumption. Textiles, Art, Design and Technology subjects are where skills and understanding of sustainable practices can be taught.

Respondents believed that intervention in school curricula was the best way to educate future generations about sustainability and that having the skills to maintain longevity in clothing use was a key factor to a more sustainable fashion future.’
(Educating for Change? An investigation into consumers’ perception of sustainability and the educational drivers needed to support sustainable consumption) Kirsty Bennetta & Jemma Oeppen Hill  (Sept 2021)

In 2015 the UNITED NATIONS announced the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, introducing 17 goals with the purpose of meeting the future needs of the planet.
The aim is that by 2030 the sustainable development goals will be taught in every classroom (United Nations, 2021).

Through the introduction of EBACC, limited options above KS3 in the UK were made available in schools past 2018, meaning textiles subjects were merged with Art and Design & Technology, leaving fewer opportunities for young people to understand sustainability issues and acquire vital life skills needed to upcycle or repair clothing.

Incorporating sustainability into the curriculum is the most effective way to educate the future consumer. The embedding of fundamental sustainability practices from a young age is the most successful way to influence and change consumer habits – it is understood that knowledge acquired at school forms lasting habits. An understanding of the negative impacts of fashion and/or how to partake in sustainable practices would provide the future consumer the power to decide on their purchasing decisions and which ultimately affects the cycle.

Eco Printing in the classroom

Eco Printing in the classroom with Fiona Balding

But it isn’t just about circular design and increasing longevity of textiles/fashion products that we can teach. As designers and creators our students can work with a host of options and opportunities to develop new products and ideas to support environmental issues, such as producing natural dyes, experimenting and growing new biomaterials, such as mycelium and creating their own textile waste action plan for school. There are numerous ways to embed the skills and messaging and a whole variety of cross-curricular activities.

If business and education act together, we can overcome the apathy of having inherited a huge problem and focus on being an active part of the solution.

Join the Textiles Skills Centre to focus on sustainability and climate change, and how textiles education can make practical and real differences.