GCSEs are created through accreditation by Ofqual, once a qualification has been approved by the Department for Education. Independent exam boards submit prospective GCSEs to Ofqual for accreditation. Ofqual has published an overview of the accreditation requirement and accreditation criterion.

A GCSE qualification in natural history would need to be created by an independent provider and approved using these processes. Recent reforms to GCSEs have sought to create a demanding standard for approval, with several subjects discontinued. If a GCSE was established, it would be up to schools to decide whether they offered it to their pupils.

A June 2020 response to a Parliamentary Question from the then School Standards Minister indicated that the Government was in principle open to a natural history GCSE, provided it met the required standards:

Nick Gibb: The exam board OCR has launched a consultation to gather views on what people think should be in a proposed GCSE in natural history. The Government has not made any commitment to introducing a GCSE in natural history, but we have indicated that we would consider any proposal put forward. Any such proposal would need to meet the same high standards and regulatory rules that we and the independent qualifications regulator Ofqual require from all GCSEs.

The exam board OCR has been working with the environmentalist Mary Colwell, the Natural History Museum, and others on a natural history GCSE, and submitted a proposal to the Department for Education in October 2020.

Parliamentary Material

House of Commons Library

House of Commons Library, GCSE, AS, and A level reform, March 2017, provides information on the last major reform of these qualifications.


Sustainability and Climate Change (National Curriculum)

Parliamentary proceedings | 702 cc125-150WH | 27 October 2021


Parliamentary proceedings | 811 cc563-586GC | 28 April 2021

News Articles

The following is a selection of news and media articles relevant to this debate.

Please note: the Library is not responsible for either the views or the accuracy of external content.

Natural history GCSE to tempt pupils outdoors, The Sunday Times [subscription required], 15 November 2021

Natural history is the romantic science. Why shouldn’t it have a GCSE?, The Telegraph [available via Nexis News], 9 September 2021

Could you spot a grampy pig? Schools could soon offer natural history GCSE, The Guardian, 29 August 2021

The path to a Natural History GCSE, Cambridge University Press and Assessment, 17 May 2021

The case for a natural history GCSE, UK National Association for Environmental Education, 22 March 2021

Government considering compulsory nature studies lessons for all pupils after David Attenborough backs plan The Independent, 15 March 2021

Potential new GCSE in Natural History provides exciting opportunity for future students, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, 9 December 2020

History in the making: Cambridge Assessment announces first ever GCSE in Natural History, Cambridge University Press and Assessment, 11 February 2020

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