Supporting a Natural History GCSE?

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I've been asked, given what I've been writing lately (see this and this), whether I'm still a supporter of the promised natural history GCSE from OCR.

Well, given that I'm still a member of the advisory board, the answer is obviously yes.  But it's a qualified yes in these senses:

Q: On balance, would you like to see a GCSE natural history qualification?  A: Yes.  On balance, I'd rather have it than not.  After all, it seems clear that many young people would enjoy and benefit from it.

Q: Do you, like some of its more prominent promotors, think that it will revolutionise young people's learning about the natural world and our place in it?  A: No.  It's a ridiculous claim.  How could it?  It's only an optional GCSE.

Q: Do you worry, as some do, that it will result in biology and geography curricula and exams being stripped of environmental and climate-related contents?  A: No.  Why on Earth would anyone – even the DfE – do that?

Q: Do you think that it will make the DfE less likely to support or promote more study of environmental and climate-related contents in schools?  A: Yes. And this is my biggest concern.  It seems obvious to me that the DfE will add this to its list of what is already being done in schools, and it will become yet another reason why nothing needs to change.

Q: But aren't you in favour of getting rid go GCSEs?  How does that square with your support for this one?  A: I am.  I think it's ludicrous that we have an end of education exam at an age when no one leaves the education system.  It's an anachronism.  But my main argument is a positive one: getting rid of the GCSE will free up three years in which students can learn interesting and useful things, and in which teachers can be free to teach.  But I'm realistic in that it will take years to do this because there are so many well-rehearsed arguments and vested interests against such a move – and not just from within the exams industry.  So let's have a GCSE in natural history while we wait for the inevitable.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response

  • An excellent response Bill. I can hear your dismissive tone in full force. Good common sense,
    That why I enjoy “ yes minister programmes which poke fun at all the prevarication and downright lies that we sometimes/frequently have to suffer