Labour is announcing that climate change will be a core part of the curriculum from primary school onwards. The announcement comes on the same day that the UK Climate Strike Network hosts more school strikes across the country.

Under plans set out by Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, the next Labour government will ensure all young people are educated about the ecological and social impact of climate change.

A review of the curriculum will also make certain that it focuses on the knowledge and skills that young people need in a world that will be increasingly shaped by climate change, particularly in renewable energy and green technology jobs.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation will drastically increase future demand for the knowledge and skills required for the green jobs of the future, with these skills severely underrepresented in the current curriculum.

As part of the review, an expert panel will consider how climate change and its impact are taught from primary school onwards.

One of the key demands of the climate school strikes is that the national curriculum is reformed to address the ecological crisis as an educational priority. Currently, teaching climate change is restricted to Chemistry and Geography in Key Stages 3 and 4.

Under the Conservatives, the curriculum has narrowed, with Michael Gove scrapping the last Labour government’s plans to start teaching children about the environment and climate change when they are in primary school.

Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Education Secretary, said “Today, young people are taking to the streets to send a  clear message to the government that climate change will be a fundamental and defining feature of their adult lives, and we must take the action needed to tackle it.

“We need to equip people with the knowledge to understand the enormous changes we face, and skills to work with the new green technologies that we must develop to deal with them.

“That must be part of a broad education and that prepares pupils for adult life. Climate change should be a core part of the school curriculum, and under a Labour government it will be.

“As well as teaching young people about the impact of climate change, their education must prepare them for the jobs of the future. As part of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution to create 400,000 skilled jobs across the country, young people will be taught the skills they need.”

The UK construction industry is asking its highly valued EU workers, who might be travelling home for Christmas, to please come back after the Christmas break, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Research focusing on how the bosses of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms view their EU workers concluded that:

  • 85% of construction SME employers that employ EU workers say that these workers are important in allowing their business to maintain and expand its workforce
  • 76% of these firms say it would have a negative impact on the health of their business if any of the EU workers they employ returned to their country of origin, now or post-Brexit
  • 94% of firms describe the quality of EU workers they employ as ‘good’ or ‘very good’

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said “Our research shows that EU workers are vital to the success of the UK construction industry and our message to these individuals is clear – you are highly valued and we need you. Christmas is now upon us and there’s a risk that those EU migrant workers who go home to their home countries for the festive period might not come back. With Brexit looming large on the horizon, EU workers in the UK are facing high levels of uncertainty over their future. Furthermore, since the depreciation of sterling, their wages aren’t worth as much as they were previously. Construction employers are genuinely concerned that this mixture of uncertainty about the future and less money in their pockets will make the UK a much less attractive proposition that it was pre-referendum.”

“Ministers haven’t done enough to reassure EU workers that they have a future in the UK. In our ‘Construction Industry Brexit Manifesto’, seven of the major trade bodies have called on the Government to embark upon a communications campaign that makes clear to our EU workers that they’ll have no serious impediments to gaining settled status. Indeed, both the Government and the industry need to do all that they can to put a positive message across. In the medium term, the construction industry can and should do more to attract and train a greater proportion of domestic workers. However, such is the extent of the current construction skills shortages, we’ll continue to need to draw upon a high number of EU migrant workers post-Brexit if the Government wants to meet its target for new homes and infrastructure projects.”

The UK labour market is already changing ahead of its exit from the EU as the number of EU migrant workers fell rapidly over the last year, according to the latest labour market figures compiled by The Resolution Foundation

The figures show that the number of EU migrant workers in Britain fell by 4.5 per cent (107,000 workers) in the year to September 2018 – the sharpest fall since records began in 1997.

Britain’s pay recovery is gathering momentum too, with nominal pay growing by 3.2 per cent in the three months to September. This is the strongest growth since December 2008, though still well below the pre-crisis average of over 4 per cent. Above-target inflation means that real pay grew by just 0.9 per cent.

Stephen Clarke, Senior Economic Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, told buildingspecifier: “The sharp fall in EU migrant workers over the last year shows that Britain’s labour market is already changing ahead of its exit from the EU, and long before its post-Brexit migration plan is in place.

“Firms who employ a large share of migrant workers need to think now about adjusting to a lower migration environment, in terms of the workers they employ, what they produce and how they operate.

“The other big labour market shift that is still to come is a proper pay recovery. Yet we see further encouraging signs off the back of a tightening labour market. Nominal pay growth reached its highest level in a decade.

“However, a sustained pay recovery rests on stronger productivity and today’s sobering growth of just 0.1 per cent shows that this is still some way off.”

A few details from a draft version of Labour’s upcoming manifesto have been leaked. What does it say about construction, house building and infrastructure? investigates:


The leaked data highlights plans to bring parts of the energy industry into public ownership and introduce a local, socially owned energy firm in every area. Also introduce an “immediate emergency price cap” to make sure dual fuel bills stay below £1,000 a year.


As well as nationalising the railways, Corbyn proposes to borrow £250bn to invest in infrastructure but stick to the fiscal credibility rule to balance day-to-day spending. He also plans to complete HS2 from London to Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Scotland.


The draft includes a target for tackling the housing shortage, suggesting that we build 100,000 new council houses per year. Additionally, Labour would see the homes of disabled veterans insulated for free.


In a bid to tackle the skills gap without jeopardising the potential for attracting home-grown talent, the draft manifesto urges us to recognise the benefit that immigrants have brought to our industry but also introduces fair rules and reasonable management. Corbyn promises to work with employers that need to recruit from abroad but emphasises the need to prevent exploitation.

The inaugural West Midlands mayoral election will be held Tomorrow to elect the Mayor of the West Midlands. All candidates have discussed building on green belt and brownfield sites in varying levels of detail, so it’s safe to say that Thursday’s result will be of keen interest to industry professionals. Buildingspecifier Editor Joe Bradbury investigates:

Thursday’s election will be the first election for a governing body covering the entire West Midlands since the 1981 West Midlands County Council election (subsequent elections will be held May 2020 and then every four years after that). Following a devolution deal between the UK government and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), it was agreed to introduce a directly-elected mayor for the combined authority, who would act as chair of the combined authority as well exercise additional powers and functions devolved from central government relating to transport and housing and planning.

Devolving such powers from central government relating to housing and infrastructure in particular naturally raises the ethical dilemma of building on land that is currently protected by Green Belt. This is understandably a strongly debated and highly controversial topic. Many campaign groups urge governments to develop brownfield sites instead, in order to protect England’s characteristic and environmentally significant countryside. However, there is also a very genuine argument that the green belt is an archaic obstacle hindering UK housing and construction in general. Let’s explore the topic:

The argument for…

The British countryside is world renowned and entrenched in our national sense of identity. It is undeniably vital that we continue to protect green space in a country known affectionately as “a green and pleasant land,” however, one cannot ignore the sad fact that the benefits of the Green Belt often accrue to a small group of people at the expense of many more in denser areas.

Studies suggest that access to the Green Belt correlates closely with household income: Green Belt policy preserves large amounts of plentiful green space around the well-off at the expense of rarer green space near the low-income areas of British cities. By limiting supply the policy inflates house prices and rents and acts as a de facto wealth transfer from poorer non-homeowners to middle- and upper-income homeowners.

Only 10% of land in England is developed, just over half of this, 5% of total land, is for homes and gardens, with only 1% of all land actually used for housing. If we were to increase our housing stock by 1.3% per year this would make a massive difference in tackling the housing shortage and would involve building on a mere 0.01% of land each year; a small loss to solve the housing crisis, many argue.

The argument against…

When looking at the argument against developing on Green Belt land, concerns seem to gather around the potential of opening a floodgate whereby once permission is granted, England’s green and pleasant land will descend into a concrete carbuncle.

The Green Belt became government policy 62 years ago this year. On its 60th anniversary, a poll commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) found that nearly two-thirds of people surveyed believed that Green Belt land should not be built on.

The Ipsos MORI poll shows that 64% of people agreed the Green Belt should be protected, while just 17% disagreed. Such strong support for Green Belt is demonstrated across a range of different groups, including people with children aged 5 and under, those renting from a local authority, and those on low incomes. And more than six out of ten people (62%) who live in towns and cities support the protection of the Green Belt – a finding that casts doubt on the claims of critics that Green Belts do not benefit people who live in urban areas.

Mayoral candidate stances

Whatever your thoughts are on Green Belt, we are all in agreement that more homes are needed in Britain today. Perhaps what we really need is tangible, immoveable targets that won’t change the second permission to build in the countryside is given. Just how will your vote affect this? Let’s take a look at the stances taken by some of the candidates reliant on your vote:

Andy Street – Conservatives

Andy Street

From the conservatives, the message seems quite clear – always prioritise brownfield sites when planning where we need to build homes in the West Midlands. Andy’s manifesto promises to spend £200 million on preparation and decontamination of brownfield sites and lobby for more. It also highlights plans to work with all councils to compile registers of all brownfield sites that could be used for housing and business development in the West Midlands.

Andy speaks of pushing Government and councils to release public sector land in the West Midlands, to be used for housing.

Sion Simon – Labour

Sion Simon

Labour Mayoral candidate Sion Simon is more open to the potential to develop Green Belt land for the benefit of the West Midlands. Recently, he has criticised West Midlands borough Solihull for blocking green belt housing schemes and also pointed out that the town is one of the wealthiest parts of the West Midlands.

Last month, Sion called for housing on Solihull green belt during Wednesday’s mayoral hustings, saying “People want new housing but don’t want it on their Green Belt, they want it on someone else’s Green Belt.

“They want the land but don’t want the cost of cleaning up dirty land. We need to start those difficult conversations.

“And the most difficult conversation is with Solihull – which has the great bulk of the wealth and a huge pressure on land and has very expensive land.”

James Burn – Green Party

James Burn

James Burn of the Green Party seems to have a similar message to that of the conservatives, arguing for the prioritisation of building on brownfield land first.
He promises a drive on local authority house building funded by central government, in addition to other measures, including exploring the introduction of a Land Value Tax (which may discourage developers purposefully not building on valuable land and bring more land into use for housing more quickly) and raising the local authority borrowing cap so that councils can borrow more to build more houses.

The manifesto states that “We will need serious discussions about where the houses should be located, the cause and extent of the crisis, where higher density building is appropriate and much more.

“We also need to increase the supply of available land while doing all we can to protect valuable green spaces. We should in general build on brownfield land first wherever possible, and challenge the assumption that this is always more expensive than building on green belt sites.”

In summary

To the casual observer (and fellow Midlander!) it seems to me that all candidates are calling for an honest and open conversation about developing Green Belt land, yet none seem to want to commit entirely to one side of the argument – or at least discuss it on any level that may give too much away on the subject prior to the election tomorrow.

Green Belt divides opinion so drastically across all sectors of our industry. Concerns about it echo through our communities and create barriers as tangible as the physical border itself. Whether you campaign for it to be protected or petition to open it up for development, anybody who builds houses or needs houses should think carefully before entering the polling booth tomorrow, because your vote just might dictate their location.

Do you think we should consider building on Green Belt? Answer the poll on the right!

Sadly and unbeknownst to many people, slavery did not end with abolition in the 19th century. It is estimated that there are 27 million slaves in the world today, many of these work in the global construction industry. According to the charitable organisation ‘Free the Slaves’, these desperate individuals come with an average price tag on their head of £67.51 each – How much is your life worth?

A new report by LexisNexis BIS, called Hidden in Plain Site – Modern Slavery in the Construction Industry, has analysed articles from more than 6,000 licensed news sources in more than 100 countries in Europe, the Middle East, North and South America, Africa and Asia between January 2015 and May 2016.

It shows that throughout the global construction industry and its material supply chains, forced labour and other exploitation that constitutes modern slavery are common, concealed and subject to inadequate prevention, policing and prosecution.

It concludes that governments, businesses and the media all have a role to play in combating modern slavery.

The report follows a pledge by UK Prime Minister Theresa May in July to spend £33 million on global initiatives to tackle modern slavery. She described it as “the great human rights issue of our time.”

Mark Dunn, Director at LexisNexis Business Insights Solutions, notes “Our report shows that there is a strong risk of forced labour taking place in the construction industry and its supply chains. Given that the construction industry employs an estimated 7% of the global workforce, this means countless thousands of workers are leading lives of misery and injustice.

“Forced labour needs to move up the global agenda. A wide range of stakeholders – international bodies, governments and the public sector, industry organisations, construction companies, investors, the media and civil society – have roles to play in preventing and avoiding collusion in worker exploitation in the construction industry. LexisNexis BIS is committed to actively working to advance the rule of law, through its day-to-day business, products and services, and its actions.”

Kevin Hyland OBE, UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said “I am pleased to see numerous sectors waking up to the crime of Modern Slavery, and the Lexis Nexis BIS report excellently educates those in the construction industry on this evil crime.

“Businesses, government and civil society have a crucial role in combatting modern slavery, and this report highlights just that. Through responsible media reporting, businesses especially are encouraged to be open about supply chains, and ultimately protect those most at risk of exploitation.

“Those in construction are especially vulnerable to this crime; with high demand for low wage labour, we must therefore strive to see a thriving construction industry that values ethical recruitment and fair employment if we ever hope to end this evil trade in human beings.’

The report is based on desk research, expert insights and analysis of wide-ranging media coverage. It defines the scope and many aspects of the problem, and breaks it down according to region (Europe, Middle East, North and South America, Africa, Asia) and the procurement of specific building materials. Relevant international regulation and standards frameworks, along with individual countries’ legislative measures (or lack of them), are examined.

Case studies in the report include allegations of forced labour being used to build World Cup 2022 stadiums in Qatar, a marine construction project in the USA, and Brazilian workers at an industrial plant in Angola.

In particular, the report relates to compliance with the recently introduced UK Modern Slavery Act 2015. The UK Home Office estimated in 2014 that there were 10,000–13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK.

More than 20 million people are in forced labour globally, the International Labour Organization estimated in 2012. The Walk Free Foundation’s 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates that there are 45.8 million people in modern slavery across the world. In a 2015 report by the European Union, construction ranked second on the list of economic sectors in the EU most prone to labour exploitation. Of the 21 countries that participated in the research, nine put construction at the top of their list.

The fact of the matter is that once working on a building site under a hard hat and hi-vis clothing, a victim becomes perfectly camouflaged and unnoticed by foremen, building specifiers and professionals within the industry. This means that well before shovels hit the ground, responsible checks must be carried out to ensure we are not inadvertently supporting an evil, inhumane trade. Despite the good work carried out by various charitable organizations and governments, the eradication of slavery is impossible without the assistance of big businesses and entire industries.