Shropshire outdoor education charity the Field Studies Council has hailed the introduction of a new natural history GCSE as a ‘major win’ for young people and the environment but warns that learners of all ages must be given the chance to explore the natural world first hand.
Environmental education specialists at the charity have been heavily involved in the long-running campaign to bring about the new qualification, officially announced by the Department for Education this week.
Mark Castle, Chief Executive of the Field Studies Council, said introduction of the new subject represented a landmark moment for the campaign and the future of environmental education in schools.
“The launch of the new natural history GCSE is a major win for young people and the environment, and we are delighted to have played our part alongside many individuals, environmental organisations and leading exam board OCR in making it happen,” he said.
“This new qualification will give older secondary school learners the opportunity to study the natural world in greater depth and help them to develop the passion and skills they need to care for and protect the environment now and in the future.
“The subject will have much broader input from science, humanities and the arts and will therefore engage young people in the natural world in many different ways.
“It will meet demand demonstrated by young people themselves who have a desire to understand the environment in which they live. It will also be an important qualification for those students wanting to work in the environmental sector and play their part in helping to combat biodiversity loss and limit the impact of climate change — it really does mark an extraordinary moment in the development of the GCSE curriculum.
“However, while this is great news for older students, we must ensure that learners of all ages and not just those who study a natural history GCSE have opportunities to explore the natural world first hand and are given the chance to connect with nature and experience high quality outdoor learning as a core part of their time at school.
“We must encourage children to be curious and passionate about the natural world from a young age so that they can make informed choices about how they protect it as they grow and develop and as a charity, we will continue to campaign for this.”
Each year the Field Studies Council, which has its headquarters at Montford Bridge near Shrewsbury, welcomes in the region of 150,000 learners to its UK network of residential field studies centres, many of which are in some of the most stunning and diverse natural environments.
It has been teaching environmental education for nearly 80 years and runs a range of specialist courses in geography, biology and ecology-related subjects as well as a host of creative art and leisure courses, giving people of all ages access to its centres, outdoor spaces and skilled tutors.
Its education team will now work in partnership with the teaching profession and exam boards to create a range of courses and resources to support those who decide to study and teach the new subject when it becomes available in 2025.
For more information about the Field Studies Council visit https://www.field-studies-council.org/