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Highland schools recreate COP26

Photo of school pupils participating in Mock COP26 event.

Four secondary schools from across the Scottish Highlands took part in a ‘Mock COP26’, to raise awareness and increase understanding of the landmark global political conference amongst senior pupils. 

Held virtually, the event involved Culloden Academy and Millburn Academy in Inverness, Speyside High School in Moray, and Dingwall Academy.

Organised by The Open University in Scotland, in partnership with the Highland One World Development Education Centre, the event on 2 November bought together 60 fifth-year and sixth-year students across the four schools. They negotiated in groups for the best results for their chosen country, whilst trying to make a difference in the battle against climate change.

Gemma Burnside, Partnerships Officer at the OU in Scotland, worked with Dawn Gillies, Culloden Academy’s Developing Young Workforce Co-ordinator, to put together the event, which ran for a whole day at all of the schools. 

Using laptops and tablets, pupils had a chance to hear from Dr Leslie Mabon, Lecturer in Engineering and Innovation at the OU, live from the Climate Change COP26 conference in Glasgow. They were then gathered into teams, with Culloden Academy looking after Brazil and Sweden, Millburn Academy taking on China and the USA, Dingwall Academy managing the UK, and Speyside High School leading for Ethiopia.

Having been given resources in advance, such as a top-secret letter from their head of state/environment secretary about the most important resolutions for their countries, the teams began three rounds of negotiations to secure the strongest deal from their county.

Teams soon gained confidence and held firm stances on their key resolutions, trading with others to encourage countries to vote with them and push their resolutions through. Towards the end of the day, a fourth, surprise round of negotiations was announced. This was a quickfire 10-minute negotiation, during which all teams could negotiate with each other via the chat function. It was a fast and furious round of negotiations, with teams battling to get other countries aligned with them. 

Throughout the day, teams had to represent views which didn’t always align with their own personal views. Pupils managed this incredibly well, particularly as negotiations progressed. By the end of event, most had been swayed to a middle ground on the majority of their resolutions, with other countries holding firm to their beliefs.

Pupils were very engaged throughout the day, really enjoyed the event and left with more knowledge about the discussions taking place on the world-stage.  

Attending the Mock COP26 was one of the best things I've ever done.”

Millie Simpson, mock UK delegate from Dingwall Academy, commented: 
“Attending the Mock COP26 was one of the best things I've ever done. It was amazing how we all worked as a team and could speak with other schools, laying out all the information we had found out. I enjoyed the event so much that I have discovered what I want to focus on in the future and which area I would like to go into at university. With the climate being such a big topic, we need to push forward in securing our future for not just us, but for the next generation. It's time to stand up for what is right, letting young people’s voices be heard.”

Keith Turner, Principal Teacher of Geography at Speyside High, said: 
“Thanks very much from all of us at Speyside for the amazing event!  The class were buzzing after it and I even have one pupil now wanting to change their UCAS application form to do something more climate change focused.”

Eva Baijal, mock Swedish delegate from Culloden Academy, stated:
“Overall, the day was a really helpful and insightful experience, developing negotiation skills, confidence to speak in front of groups and simply just awareness of what is happening right now in our world. I learned a lot about what COP actually is and actions I could take to help in the movement against climate change.”

Lachlan Jack, mock Brazilian delegate from Culloden Academy, added: 
“I feel the Mock COP26 that I participated in helped me improve both my negotiation and communication skills. I also feel I have a better grasp of the complexities of the challenges world leaders face in tackling the climate crisis.”

There is a wide range of free online resources exploring climate change and the importance of COP26, on the OU’s free learning site OpenLearn

The OU in Scotland offers a Young Applicants in Schools Scheme (YASS) for sixth-year secondary school pupils. The scheme is designed to bridge the gap between school and university, college or employment. 8,800 young people from almost 300 schools have taken Open University modules through YASS. 


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