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Natural History GCSE: “It will struggle to gain a foothold in an already crowded curriculum”

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A new Natural History GCSE will be launched this week that focuses on teaching pupils how to protect the planet, giving “a deeper knowledge of the natural world around them”.

Students already learn about many environmental issues when studying geography and science, but the government said this new course would “go further” in teaching about environmental and sustainability issues.

As part of the course pupils will be taught about the history and evolution of species and the impact of human life on natural environments, as well as how they world is changing.

Climate change will also be a key focus of the course and it is hoped the course will help pupils to develop skills for future careers in conservation.

The Department for Education (DfE) said it would range “from understanding how to conserve local wildlife to conducting the fieldwork needed to identify species”.

Commenting on the proposed natural history GCSE, Professor Justin Dillon, from the University of Exeter’s Graduate School of Education and President of the National Association for Environmental Education, said:

“The course will compete with very popular and well-established GCSEs in biology, chemistry and geography. It will struggle to gain a foothold in an already crowded curriculum. 

“If the Education Secretary is serious about the need for young people “to gain a deeper knowledge of the natural world around them” then he needs to ensure that all subjects in the school curriculum address environmental and sustainability issues. To do otherwise is to betray another generation of young people.  

“What actually will be taught is not clear. Will they learn about the science that exposes badger culling as a failure? Will they be taught why the Secretary of State for the Environment, George Eustice, granted an application by the National Farmers Union and British Sugar for emergency authorisation of thiamethoxam, known to kill pollinators in huge numbers, for the treatment of sugar beet seed? Somehow, I doubt it – it will probably be good for the sales of Ladybird books but not the lives of Britain’s ladybirds.”

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