A Focus On Nature

A Focus On Nature

Thoughts on a Natural History GCSE

A petition has recently created much discussion between naturalists, as it calls for the curriculum to offer a GCSE in natural history. We asked some AFON members for their thoughts on this petition.


Natural history is important, and should be taught more in school, but not as a GCSE. By the time one chooses their GCSE options, it’ll be far too late, and having a separate GCSE to me also sends out the wrong message.

We should be targeting primary school children and start to show them the wonders of the natural world and how important it is, not wait til one is about to leave school. I also often see comments about how school is all about assessments; an experience I can relate to.

Let’s not give them more assessments unnecessarily, and potentially the take fun out of it. Natural history should be incorporated into other subjects – the sciences, geography, for example – shows how it all fits together and interlinks! That’s how the messages will get across better, I think.

– Amy Robjohns


Hats off to Mary Colwell who has set up the e-petition to push for a GCSE in Natural History. I myself have signed the petition as I would love to hear the subject debated in parliament and ensure that politicians understand how important this whole subject is and will be for the future; however I do not entirely agree that a GCSE in Natural History is the way forward.

It is blatantly obvious to me that having environmental/natural history education being taught in both primary and secondary schools is the most efficient and effective way to reach out to all young people from all backgrounds. In my view, natural history should and could be incorporated in some way into all the compulsory subjects. This way environmental education would be taught no matter what; it wouldn’t be a stand alone subject to opt in or out of. Of course no method is guaranteed to inspire a life long passion for the natural world, but you can teach the younger generation just how much we depend on the natural world and therefore how important it is to safeguard it.

We are running out of time to protect the planet, therefore big decisions need to be made now, and a huge part of this is educating the future environmental guardians

– Findlay Wilde


Like many other nature lovers, I strongly feel that there should be a GCSE on natural history and wildlife, and how they are becoming threatened due to humans. I think this would be beneficial for both the human sake and the animals.

This is because if we teach children, they may try to help stop, or educate more people not to harm our world, and learn that everything deserves to be as equal to us.

As I am a animal lover I wish that I could do more to help the animals from going extinct. I hope that in the coming years there will be a GCSE on natural history so we can keep the nature lovers going.

– Katie Horrocks


As a young naturalist you may have found it useful to take (or be taking) GCSEs in Biology and Geography and you may have even, very occasionally, experienced elements of natural history in other subject areas such as History or English. However, wouldn’t it have been far more inspiring and useful for you if there had been a dedicated ‘Natural History’ option on the menu?

You may have noticed the petition that is currently live on the government petitions site which is calling for this very thing: a natural history GCSE which would give young people the skills to name, observe, monitor and record wildlife. It would give an opportunity for young naturalists to develop themselves and I urge you to support it.

I certainly wish this opportunity had been available while I was at school and I hope that for the young people of the future it can be a reality, treated as the norm.

– Ben Eagle


Whilst I agree that a GCSE in natural history would be beneficial in helping to rebuild the connection between young people and the environment, I fear that a lot of work would go into developing a qualification that very few students would actually take.

In my opinion it is not the first step that needs to be taken. I think that we need to start by introducing learning about the natural world into the curriculum in the years before important qualifications; in Years 7 to 9, and increase learning at Primary level.

A GCSE in natural history could turn learning about the environment into a ‘chore’ for students, when it should be a fun and interesting part of the curriculum. That’s why I think that we should start by bringing in engaging lessons for young years to enthuse and inspire the next generation about wildlife.

– Sorrel Lyall


A GCSE in Natural History would not only open people’s eyes to the amazing world around them but it would also give them an excellent focus in life which would likely lead to a fulfilling career. The knowledge gained from the course and presence of it on on an application would be a huge support to someone applying for a science based job or degree such as Zoology or renewable energy.

But the beauty of it in my opinion is that it would also aid those who wish to support the natural world in other means; everything from media based work such as photography, illustration and journalism, to therapy and lifestyle coaching. There’s no end to the benefits of nature therefore there would be boundless applications from this course.

– Laura Richardson


Logging onto Twitter last week I spotted a petition to the UK Government to develop a GCSE in Natural History. I immediately clicked onto the link and signed the petition mainly because it would teach and cover so much more than just natural history.

Since then I have taken a step back, processed and have realised that by the time the next generation comes to their decision of choosing their GCSE’s many are already dis-engaged with the natural world. This qualification would undoubtedly benefit the dedicated naturalists we have presently, but will not solve the problem of Nature Deficit Disorder and re-engaging children with Britain’s Natural History.

A research-based approach is needed and if we are to truly re-connect children and families to the natural world then we need to focus on early years and Primary Schools. A connection to wildlife is built strongest upon a child’s early years through the ages of 4-7. An adult free, outdoor play focus is crucial for children to build their own personal connection with the outdoors, one that evolves through their teenage years and stays with them during their adult lives. If we get this approach correct then there will be enough young naturalists calling for a GCSE in Natural Science for it to naturally happen.

The focus needs to be on compulsory outdoor education in Primary Schools. We need Forest School and outdoor play as a foundation of the curriculum.

– Stephen Le Quesne



  1. Chris Baker said:

    Please read my blog article to see why I think this is a poorly thought out petition:




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