Environmental Rating Scale for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood

The UNESCO (2020) Education for Sustainable Development Roadmap suggests the need for Countries; ‘to monitor the progress of ESD for 2030’ (Implementation Priority 4.6). In particular, Member States are invited to: “Develop national indicators to monitor the progress of dedicated country initiatives on ESD for 2030 and contribute to the development of a meaningful scheme to monitor the outcome of ESD”. Three instruments have been developed by OMEP that may be applied or adapted for these purposes in early childhood education. The OMEP Educational Rating Scale for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood (ERS-SDEC) was developed with UNESCO support in an international collaboration of OMEP preschools and academics from 10 countries (Siraj-Blatchford et al, 2016).

Further details are provided below. Ongoing work is also being carried out internationally to create a Second Edition of the instrument and further details of this may be found online (here and here). The ERS-SDEC has also been updated and adapted to provide a ‘self-audit instrument’ for preschools engaged in developing their practice through th OMEP-UK early Childhood Education for Sustainable Citizenship award scheme.

Further information on the OMEP-UK Award may be found on this site and an anlysis of the three istruments is available for download online (Siraj-Blatchford et al, 2021).   Nikiforidou et al (2019) found that the ERS-SDEC had significant potential in supporting early childhood education for sustainable development in the UK and more globally, as long as it was applied in a child-centred manner.  The ERS-SDEC has also been found to be valuable in studies carried out in Croatia (Bahtić, 2018), Portugal (Folque, et al, 2017, Serra, 2021, Silva, 2021), and in the policy analysis of ESD in Northern Ireland (Boyde, 2017), and in Chile (Fermín-González, M. and Simonstein, 2020).  In addition, the ERS-SDEC scale has been found valuable as an in-service training tool that has supported teachers in reflecting upon and changing their ESD practice (Ärlemalm-Hagsér, E., 2017, Ärlemalm-Hagsér, et al, 2021, Larsson and Pramling Samuelsson, 2019).

The ERS-SDEC may be applied by individual or groups of practitioners to audit their education for sustainable development curriculum. It is free to download in nine languages below and has been developed to help practitioners and preschool centre mangers in setting ESD curriculum development priorities.

Where the scale is used by a single practitioner within their own setting, the scale can be applied to support curriculum development through identifying priorities, setting targets and managing change without difficulties. But wherever any form of comparison is involved between teaching and learning contexts or settings:

  • training will be required to develop a shared understanding the use and the role of the scale;
  • training will also be required to ensure common understandings of the quality criteria (definitions and cultural variations) and in;
  • many cases a ‘critical friend’ should also be involved to provide support and validation (this may be an local authority adviser or an academic who has applied the instrument in other contexts.

OMEP UK offers training for trainers in the use of the scale and may be able to put you in contact with a local provider: Contact:

As in other early childhood environmental rating scales, the ERS-SDEC identifies both curriculum and pedagogic provisions and it requires the evaluator to make their own observations. Our intention has been to develop the instrument as a both a research tool, and also as a self-assessment tool for practitioners. Where it is applied by an outside researcher they will be required to ask practitioners for information about their practices, and to seek evidence that confirms these practices. The ERS-SDEC applies the same rating procedures and may be applied conveniently alongside more elaborate and comprehensive quality rating scales such as the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale – Revised (ECERS-R) (Harms, Clifford and Cryer, 1998) or the English Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale – Extension (ECERS-E) (Sylva, Siraj-Blatchford, & Taggart, 2003). But in any comparative or collaborative research context there will always be a need to ensure inter-rater reliability and it is important that users recognise the need for external or collective moderation and/or validation. If you are intending to use the instrument for comparative research purposed please let us know and we will be able to provide further advise or support. Contact:

Details of the international trials carried out in development of the ERS-SDEC instrument may be found at:

Siraj-Blatchford, J., Park, E., and Mogharreban, C. (Eds.) (2016) International Research on Education for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood, Springer International Publishing

ERS-SDEC Downloads

Preschool Outdoor Environment Measurement Scale (POEMS)

  • Available for order online here

Designed as a self-study, this US scale is intended to raise the quality of the preschool outdoor environment and promote their use in teaching, research, and practice. It includes a user guide, the scale and a scoring protocol, reliability and validity information, and a technical assistance manual for program improvement and planning. The scale addresses environments for children age 3-5 years. (Additional Scoring Protocols sold separately.)