An initiative has been launched to introduce a new GCSE based around the nation’s animals and flora and fauna after a worrying survey revealed how little children know about their surrounding wildlife.
Portsmouth City Council cabinet member for education, Suzy Horton, commented: ‘Children have a natural interest in the environment and this is evident in the recent youth movement we have seen to protect the natural world. Children learn best when they are interested in something and this is a move I would welcome.’
The survey of 1,000 children aged five to sixteen revealed that 51 percent could not identify a stinging nettle and 82 per cent did not recognise an oak leaf. Identifying birds was also an issue with 65 per cent unable to name a kingfisher or a blue tit and 49 per cent could not identify a puffin.
Perhaps the biggest shock was the failure of 83 per cent of children to identify a bumblebee.
Cllr Horton commented: ‘It is certainly surprising that so few children could identify a bumblebee as learning about the environment has always been an important part of school.’
The proposed new GCSE, which is backed by the Green Party and nature writer Mary Colwell, is currently being considered by one of the main UK exam boards.
Ms Colwell said: ‘The Natural History GCSE would concentrate on what the living world is, teaching teenagers about specific organisms, field observation skills, conservation and how nature has influenced art and culture.’
However, councillor Horton feels care would need to taken not to simply replicate current curriculum content.
‘Whilst I welcome the move, I would be curious to see how much of the content is already covered in current GCSE’s such as geography and biology,’ she said.