Animal welfare should be part of the national curriculum, say UK teachers

With the end of the school year creeping ever closer, a new survey reveals over ninety-five per cent of teachers say teaching children about animal welfare would help make them more compassionate and socially aware.

A brand new survey* by the RSPCA has revealed that teachers strongly in support of teaching animal welfare in the classroom, with 93 per cent of respondents stating they would teach animal welfare in the classroom if they had the time.

It has long been argued that encouraging children to respect and care for animals can help them become more caring, compassionate, and responsible. While it is hoped parents do teach these skills at home, the RSPCA believes teachers can also play a key role in helping develop greater empathy and better social skills.

The survey of almost 800 teachers across England and Wales also revealed that 83 per cent felt animal welfare should be part of the national curriculum. However, some had concerns about how it would be integrated into existing frameworks, and whether it would mean more demands on already overworked teachers.

RSPCA formal education manager Claire Morris said: “We felt it is easy to sit on the sidelines and state that animal welfare should be part of the curriculum, but it is far more practical and helpful to show that it can be done.”

To address these concerns, the RSPCA created over 90 free lesson plans for teachers, which are linked to the English and Welsh Curricula. Many of the RSPCA’s lesson plans overlap in subject areas including Science, Citizenship, Literacy and Numeracy, as well as provide springboards for assemblies and student councils.

“We urge the government to consider integrating animal welfare into our children’s education as a matter of urgency – as skills such as empathy, compassion and social consciousness have value as a child goes through the education system as well as when they enter adulthood and the world of work,” she added.

This is particularly important, say the RSPCA, as the five animal welfare needs** are central to the Animal Welfare Act – which is a legal duty of care towards all animals in the UK. The survey results showed that only 70 per cent of respondents knew what the five welfare needs were.

As well as looking at the ethical side of animal welfare, 92 per cent of teachers also expressed a strong preference for lessons specifically on animals’ role in food and clothing production. It was felt that with young people better connected than ever before, they have an increasing awareness of social issues and expect higher ethical standards from companies.

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