From the team at BBC Wildlife Magazine

Government announces natural history GCSE

After years of work by the curlew conservationist and author Mary Colwell, a new GCSE in natural history has been announced by the government.

A group of friends walking through ferns in a forest.
Published: April 22, 2022 at 10:00 am
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In an event held at the Natural History Museum, London, the UK government's Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced that there would be a new natural history GCSE, which will be developed and brought into schools by 2025.

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The announcement came as part of the Department of Education's Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy.

“We are delivering a new natural history GCSE,” said Zahawi, “which will, I hope, inspire young people and empower them, give them that agency, not to just be anxious and distressed about climate change, but actually to make a difference.”

The GCSE was first thought up by Mary Colwell, the director of Curlew Action and author of Curlew Moon and Tooth, Beak and Claw, back in 2011 during a conversation with conservationist, and now-chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper.

“A GCSE in natural history could be a game-changer for the nature of Britain,” she said. “Everyone will have the opportunity to be nature-literate, to learn about British wildlife and how it relates to the rest of the world, which is essential for a sustainable, green future.”

Since then, she has been asking the government for the GCSE and working with the OCR exam board to develop its content.

The GCSE aims to connect students with the natural world and environmental and sustainability issues by:

  1. Understanding local wildlife and how local species relate to other areas throughout the UK. Understand why wildlife differs from place to place, study their behaviour and their relationships with the environment.
  2. Developing field craft, including surveying, monitoring and data collection using a variety of techniques and how to analyse and use data.
  3. Understanding how the human world impacts wildlife through agriculture, industry and development as well as through social and political forces, at local, national and international levels.

“This is a pivotal moment for education, and one which could change all our futures for the better,” says Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts. “At this critical juncture of twin nature and climate crises, young people have led the demands for action, yet too often inequalities mean they don’t get the opportunity to learn about the natural world. Now that’s about to change, and not before time.”

“I hope studying natural history will encourage students to fall in love with nature and inspire a new and diverse generation of naturalists, conservationists, and scientists. This GCSE should become a springboard to a lifelong connection with nature and to ‘green’ careers. Learning about wildlife, plants, and our impact on the planet are vital educational tools for the 21st century. ”


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Main image: A group of friends walking through ferns in a forest. © Getty

Authors

Megan ShersbyEditorial and digital co-ordinator at BBC Wildlife Magazine, and countryfile.com
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