We’re delighted to hear that plans are being made to introduce a GCSE in natural history to schools across the UK in a bid to reconnect teenagers with wildlife. As an Ocean conservation charity, we know that forming positive connections with nature at an early age can lay the foundation for life-long support for conservation – something which is really important given the current threats to nature across the world.

At the Ocean Conservation Trust we feel very strongly that this GCSE should have an equal balance between terrestrial and marine flora and fauna. Currently, marine examples are notable by their absence within the English National Curriculum, despite the Ocean representing the largest living space on the planet and providing 50 per cent of the oxygen we breathe – making it essential for the survival of us all.

Ocean swims in Plymouth Sound National Marine Park

We are an island nation. Young people living in England are never more than 70 miles away from the coastline, so an understanding of their native coastal wildlife will ensure that this GCSE delivers a balanced perspective of the wonder of the biodiversity of the UK.  We feel that students should be able to identify the common types of seaweed (algae) and explain the difference between aquatic and terrestrial plants.  Undertaking shoreline surveys, including the identification of common rockpool species would also provide an excellent insight into a wide range of biological principles from competition and adaptation, to interdependence and human pressures on local ecosystems.

Snorkel Safari in Plymouth Sound National Marine Park

The Ocean has a huge role to play in mitigating climate change due to its ability to sequester carbon but is also greatly affected by rising temperatures itself. It is now more important than ever that young people understand how the Ocean influences their lives, as well as how their own behaviours can impact upon Ocean health – in other words, for them to become Ocean literate – to ensure a healthier future, both for it and for us.  There are so many ways that the beauty, geography, history and science of the oceans can inspire and engage students at all levels across all curriculum subjects and there are a wide variety of resources available to teachers online and by interacting with institutions such as the Ocean Conservation Trust.

Ocean Conservation Trust’s Schools Officer Karen Wilcocks said: “The introduction of a GCSE in Natural History is a perfect opportunity to use our Ocean as a tool to inspire and engage students, allowing them to build positive connections with the natural world. With the issue of climate change being increasingly in the public eye, it is more important now than ever that young people have a solid understanding of Ocean Literacy, how our survival depends on its protection, and the positive behavioural changes we can make to ensure a bright future for our planet”.