Leading independent school Eastbourne College has announced plans to teach Natural History at GCSE from 2025 as part of its commitments to provide a holistic education and support environmental awareness.

The school is a key supporter of the GCSE, feeding into exam board OCR’s proposal as members of the OCR Natural History GCSE Strategic Advisory Board. The school is the first in Sussex and one of the first in the country to set out plans for teaching Natural History (due to launch in September 2025), following the announcement about the introduction of the GCSE by the Department for Education in April 2022.

The next step for the GCSE is a public Department for Education (DfE) consultation on subject content. Eastbourne College is poised to respond as it feels the GCSE would be an excellent opportunity to teach pupils about organisms and their environment, as well as climate change and other environmental issues. The school is keen to encourage pupils to develop skills through conservation and fieldwork.

Headmaster Tom Lawson said: “We’re excited to set out plans to add Natural History to the broad range of subjects on offer at Eastbourne College for when pupils come to choose their GCSE options.

“Alongside other schools from the Coastal Schools Partnership, we have been actively involved, in getting to this point.

“We hope this GCSE will enable pupils to gain a richer understanding of wildlife, biodiversity and ecosystems which need to be protected and will build on the many environmental projects the College is involved with. We expect it to be a very popular course.”

It comes after Eastbourne College was named the top Eco Warrior school in the country by Tatler in its 2023 School Awards, thanks to the green initiatives it has championed.

Pupils take part in weekly beach cleans and are involved in various eco projects, including designing a world-first outdoor gym made from recycled plastics, which it is hoped will become part of the new shoreline development in Eastbourne. Pupils and teachers are also working with the Environment Agency on a project to design new shore defences from Pevensey to Eastbourne to protect against sea level rises.

As part of the Coastal Schools Partnership, Eastbourne College is one of the schools that has been working with Eden Project founder Sir Tim Smit on plans to create an outdoor centre for environmental education on the South Downs, allowing young people from across the town to re-connect with nature.

The seaside school is committed to the idea of ‘Blue health’ – studies[1] have shown there are numerous health benefits to being outdoors and near water.

Headmaster Tom Lawson added: “We are proud to call ourselves a Blue Health school – research has shown there are important benefits to health and wellbeing from being outside and seeing the sea. Every day we encourage pupils to have a healthy balance of being inside and out.

“Offering pupils the chance to study the natural world will perfectly complement our efforts to provide a healthy balance as we strive to nurture a love of the outdoors and make the most of our stunning coastal location between the sea and the South Downs.”