GCSE Natural History

OCR Natural History Consultation

Green light for GCSE in Natural History

We’re delighted our plans to introduce a GCSE in Natural History have been approved by the Department for Education (DfE). The new qualification will enable students to develop a rich understanding of the natural world: from their own local wildlife, environment and ecosystem to critical global challenges like climate change, biodiversity and sustainability.

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The story so far


We were approached by naturalist Mary Colwell, who has been spearheading a campaign to address the gap in natural history content in education. Since then we've worked closely with Mary, supporter organisations, teachers, students, naturalists, conservationists and many others with an interest in nature and natural history to address this gap in education. You can read the OCR position statement on 'greening the curriculum' here.

At a Cambridge University Press and Assessment Network seminar in 2021 - 'Exploring nature in education: Developing a Natural History GCSE' - Mary Colwell discussed the lack of understanding of nature and its impact and the important role education can play in overcoming them:

GCSE in Natural History would reconnect our young people with the natural world around them. Not just because it’s fascinating, not just because it’s got benefits for mental health, but because we’ll need these young people to create a world we can all live in, a vibrant and healthy planet. - Mary Colwell

She was joined by Tim Oates CBE, Director of Assessment Research and Development, who discussed the process of developing a proposal for a new qualification. You can watch the seminar in full here

Higher Education and institutional letter of support

A letter of support organised by Mary Colwell, Professor Yadvinda Malhi and Professor Phil Manning was sent to the Department of Education in support of the OCR Natural History proposal on behalf of 17 different universities with 22 different departments/schools represented. Read the letter here.


In 2020, OCR organised a consultation to help shape early thinking about what a GCSE in Natural History might look like. The consultation was open to everyone and its aim was to seek views on the purpose of Natural History, what Natural History is and explore the key themes the qualification would need, such as conservation, the early world, and the study of flora and fauna. The consultation also sought thoughts on the practicalities and the importance of observing nature in real situations outside the classroom.

We had a huge response to the consultation, with over 2,000 responses, including over 200 responses from young people. You can download a comprehensive report and infographic which summarises the consultation key findings.

OCR proposal

We submitted our proposal to develop a GCSE in Natural History to the Department for Education (DfE) on 23rd October 2020. Our proposal was based on findings from the consultation.


Climate education

Cambridge University Press and Assessment climate education

Discover how Cambridge University Press & Assessment, of which OCR is a part, is embedding climate education into curricula and education systems worldwide.

Climate Education

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You can read back issues of our Natural History newsletter here.

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Green light for ‘game-changer’ GCSE in Natural History

Our plans to introduce a GCSE in Natural History were approved by the Department for Education (DfE) on 21st April 2022 as a part of their flagship sustainability and climate change strategy. The move is the culmination of a decade-long campaign led by naturalist Mary Colwell and other leading environmentalists.

Mary_Colwell_138x138A GCSE in Natural History could be a game-changer for the nature of Britain. Everyone will have the opportunity to be nature-literate, to learn about British wildlife and how it relates to the rest of the world, which is essential for a sustainable, green future.  - Mary Colwell.


Jill-Duffy_140x140This GCSE is a wonderful opportunity for young people everywhere – from urban to rural environments – to study and connect with wildlife and the natural world. Deeper engagement with biodiversity and sustainability will equip generations of young people to understand their environment and grapple with critical challenges. - Jill Duffy, OCR Chief Executive.


What happens next?

GCSE Natural History timeline

Now the DfE has decided to take our proposal forward they will launch their own consultation. We'll keep you up to date on its progress. We've now updated our timeline to reflect this. The latest version explains the consultation process, shows the next subsequent steps and the estimated dates.

View timeline

What is Natural History and why study it?


We've created a proposed definition of Natural History and a statement on the purpose of studying Natural History. Find out more.

Our statement of purpose

Key Supporters

GCSE Natural History supporters

We're delighted to be working with so many organisations to support the development of a GCSE in Natural History. Here are just a small section of the supporters, you can see the full list here.

Full list of GCSE Natural History supporters

GCSE Natural History supporter logos

Articles from Natural History supporters

We're delighted to be working with so many organisations to support the development of a GCSE in Natural History. Check out the views of guest contributors and supporters

Read GCSE Natural History supporter articles

GCSE Natural History supporter articles

Support for Natural History in the media

pile of newspapers

An understanding of the environment and the world around us is more important than ever before.  Check out the growing number of articles and blog supporting Natural History.

Support for GCSE Natural History in the media


Scrabble tiles that spell out FAQ

Got a question about our proposed GCSE Natural History qualification?  Check out our FAQ section. Alternatively contact us at: NaturalHistory@ocr.org.uk

Read our FAQs