GCSE Natural History

OCR Natural History Consultation

Developing a GCSE in Natural History

In response to the call for developing a GCSE in Natural History, we've worked closely with many supporter organisations, teachers, students, naturalists, conservationists and many others with an interest in nature and natural history to address this gap in education. 

'Exploring nature in education: Developing a Natural History GCSE' (13 May 2021)

At this Cambridge Assessment Network seminar Mary Colwell discussed the lack of understanding of nature and its impact and the important role education can play in overcoming them:

A 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

In October 2020, we submitted a proposal to the Department for Education(DfE) to develop a new Natural History qualification.


Last year 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 have been working closely with Mary, the Natural History Museum and many others to understand the purpose and themes of such a qualification.

We think there's a gap in the curriculum that isn't encouraging a connection with the natural world, and at the same time, we know that young people are very much engaged in the debate on the environment and they understand what their role should be and could be in protecting for the future. - Jill Duffy, CEO, OCR

Read the OCR position statement on 'greening the curriculum'


The consultation was an important step in helping to shape early thinking about what a GCSE in Natural History might look like. 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. 

The consultation ran from 4 June to 19 July 2020 and was open to everyone.

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 is based on our consultation and we have put together a separate comprehensive report which summarises the key findings.

You can download this report and infographic here.

If the DfE decide to take our proposal forward they will launch their own consultation. You can see the subsequent steps in our consultation timeline.

Keep up to date with our proposed GCSE in Natural History and other OCR Natural History news by signing up our email newsletter and updates. You can read back issues of our Natural History newsletter here.

Consultation summary of findings

We had a huge response to the consultation, which closed on 19th July 2020, with over 2,000 responses, including over 200 responses from young people. 

Our qualification proposal is based on this consultation and we have put together a separate comprehensive report which summarises the key findings. You can download this report and infographic here.

What happens next?

If the DfE decide 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 consultation timeline to reflect this. The latest version explains the consultation process, shows the next subsequent steps and the estimated dates.

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.

Key Supporters

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


Check out the views of guest contributors and supporters in these articles:

Support for Natural History in the media

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.


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