NAEE President, Prof Justin Dillon, comments on the DfE announcement that the GCSE in natural History is to go ahead:

The forthcoming announcement by education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, of a new Nature Study GCSE, shows the lukewarm approach to environmental education that has characterised his government and his department’s curriculum unit for far too long. 

Zahawi, is quoted as saying that “sustainability and climate change are the biggest challenges facing mankind.” One might expect that, if he actually wanted to do something to help, that he would ensure that all children would study environmental and sustainability issues to the depth this new GCSE promises. But that’s not the case. The course, which will not start until 2025, will be optional, and will compete with very popular and well established GCSEs in biology, chemistry and geography. This new GCSE will struggle to gain a foothold in an already crowded curriculum. 

If Zahawi 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 by providing an education that, by his own admission, does not do enough to prepare them “to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of this amazing planet, its environment and how to conserve it.”  

What actually will be taught to a small minority of 14-16 year-olds under the aegis of the new GCSE 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.”


As ever with our blogs, views expressed are not necessarily those of the Association. Justin can be contacted at: . Please get in touch with us if you have a comment on this; either as a comment on-line to this post or by email to

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment