2023 could see the introduction of a new GCSE, the first since computer science was introduced in 2014. At Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust we welcome the idea of a GCSE in natural history. In fact, we think it’s fantastic that young people with an interest in the subject will be able to deepen their learning, and their connection to nature, through dedicated study.
However, as Becky Fisher, Senior Engagement Manager explains the GCSE is only a step in the right direction. We believe children should have the opportunity to have immersive learning experiences in nature throughout their whole school lives. If officially approved, natural history will be an optional GCSE with young people only choosing to study it if they’d like to, but how do you choose a subject if you’ve never experienced it? If I cast my mind back to when I took my GCSEs, there were a selection I had to take and then a few more I could choose to study. I think my choice of art at GCSE is a good example here. I am not a particularly talented artist, I’m pretty good at pencil drawing from a photograph (just please don’t ask me to draw people). However, I love art. It’s something I got to experience throughout my whole school life, from my mum taking my hand and dipping it in paint at pre-school, right through primary and into secondary. Not only did I get to have hands on experiences with art and dedicated lessons to study it, but I also learnt through art in maths, science, english, geography, and history. Art, in some form, whether you’re painting, writing poetry or making a 3D model of a volcano, runs through a lot, if not all the subjects taught across the primary and secondary curriculums. We’d like to see nature embedded in a similar way.
We know the appetite for outdoor learning is there, this year we’ve seen an increase in the number of schools contacting us to get help with outdoor learning, and we’ve shared some of the success stories from across the two counties. Just last week I met with a school who have written a natural history curriculum which they will learn throughout their primary school science lessons. The examples are out there, and it’s becoming more mainstream, but we’re not there yet. There’s three main ways nature can be embedded in school life; we’d like to see a mixture of all three across primary and secondary.