The GCSE course aims to empower young people to take action on the environment and put “climate change at the heart of education”.
The Department for Education (DfE) has decided to launch a new course on Natural History to teach children about climate change and conserving our natural inheritance.
The first ever General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) course will be available for students to take from September 2025.
It is focused on allowing pupils to gain “a deeper understanding of the natural world around them.”
GCSEs are one of the UK’s academic qualifications, which are normally taken by students aged 15-16 but can be taken at any age, before moving onto more specialist exams called A-levels.
The new subject is part of the Department of Education’s Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy, which was presented as a draft in last year’s UN climate summit.
Addressing the COP26, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, announced new measures to empower young people to take action on the environment and put “climate change at the heart of education”.
Sustainability and climate change are ‘critical’
According to the DfE, the natural history course will enable students “to explore the world by learning about organisms and environments, environmental and sustainability issues”.
Zahawi, who will formally announce the qualification along with the Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy on Thursday, said: “Sustainability and climate change are the biggest challenges facing mankind.
“None of us can be in any doubt just how critical they have become.
“The new natural history GCSE will offer young people a chance to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of this amazing planet, its environment and how to conserve it.”
Pupils can build future careers in conservation
The broad outline of the course has been drawn up and “the government will work closely with independent experts and a range of stakeholder organisations, exam boards including Cambridge OCR and Ofqual to develop the detailed content for the GCSE,” the DfE said.
Pupils will also develop skills for future careers in conservation, ‘from understanding how to conserve local wildlife to conducting the fieldwork needed to identify species’, the department added.
Meanwhile the Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy will set out to help ‘young people develop excellent knowledge of STEM and practical opportunities to improve biodiversity and climate resilience’.
Currently, Climate change is on the curriculum and taught in science, citizenship and geography from secondary school onwards.
In primary school pupils are taught the core concepts – including what the climate is, how it changes, and the difference between manmade and natural environments.
News of the new GCSE course on climate change has been met with a mixed response.
While many members of the public have welcomed the new course, others have dismissed it as a government ploy “to divert attention from its own failings.”
A person on Twitter wrote: “Its propaganda. Climate Change is real, but we don’t have specialist GCSEs for every other political issue. Children should be taught to think for themselves. GCSE in philosophy, chemistry, biology efc fine – then they can work out for themselves their views on climate change.”
In climate justice activist Scarlett Westbrook’s opinion: “Climate education has to be comprehensive, relevant and available to everyone, but it must be accompanied by rapid climate action because, contrary to what the Government is putting out, a shiny new GCSE won’t solve the climate crisis.”
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