Britain to launch new 'climate change' exam to focus on protecting the planet

Course in natural history will offer UK pupils a chance to develop skills for careers in conservation

The new course is part of the UK education department’s sustainability and climate change strategy. Getty Images

The British government is set to launch a new exam to tackle the issue of climate change.

The move comes amid sustained calls from environmental campaigners to teach children the importance of protecting the planet from an early age.

The new natural history GCSE qualification is set to be announced by the UK's Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi on Thursday and is expected to be launched in September 2025.

The announcement will come as part of the Department for Education's sustainability and climate change strategy.

“Sustainability and climate change are the biggest challenges facing mankind," Mr Zahawi said.

“None of us can be in any doubt just how critical they have become. The new natural history GCSE will offer young people a chance to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of this amazing planet, its environment and how to conserve it.”

The DfE said the course would teach pupils about environmental and sustainability issues “to gain a deeper knowledge of the natural world around them” and help young people to develop skills for careers in conservation.

Young protesters hold up placards as they take part in a 'Fridays For Future' rally in Glasgow, Scotland. AFP

“The government will work closely with independent experts and a range of stakeholder organisations, exam boards including Cambridge OCR, and [exam watchdog] Ofqual to develop the detailed content for the GCSE,” the DfE said.

The curriculum will build on topics studied in subjects such as ecosystems in science.

Zac Goldsmith, Minister of State for the Pacific and the International Environment, welcomed the decision.

"This is very good news," he said.

"Long term, medium term and now – there’s nothing more important."

Nature writer Mary Colwell has been campaigning for the introduction of a natural history exam for more than a decade.

"And finally, it is being announced as definite on Thursday (also World Curlew Day!) – a GCSE purely on studying natural history in the UK and how it relates to the rest of the world," she tweeted.

"Field skills, ID, connection to nature. Some good news. Only took 11 years of campaigning!"

London's UCL, Liverpool John Moores, Greenwich and Northampton universities all now offer climate change degrees after a rise in demand.

Updated: April 20, 2022, 11:32 AM