Zoological Society of London Written evidence (EDU0056)


The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has been a centre of excellence for study since it was established in 1826. While initially focussed on post-graduate education, ZSL has been utilising our zoos – London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo, international conservation work and academic institution – the Institute of Zoology – to provide educational opportunities for all levels; from pre-school to professor. Providing education for young people is an integral part of our charitable mission and our vision of seeing a world where wildlife thrives, will be impossible to achieve without ensuring the next generations are provided with an education that teaches them about the challenges for the natural world, and equips them with skills for future success.


The effectiveness of the 11-16 curriculum in equipping young people with the skills they need to progress into post-16 education and employment in a future digital and green economy

Our view is that this is not effective as it does not allow to engage with organisations directly.   A low percentage of our Education Access Scheme schools are secondary which is because of the lack of time available to them to engage in external opportunities due to their rigid timetable.   Those secondary schools we do work with regularly are committed to optimising the careers activities that we offer, including work experience,  careers fairs, 6-8 weeks courses and mentoring for their students.

Research has proven that students who are on free-school meals are less likely to be in a position to be able to organise their own work-experience. As work experience has now on the onus of the student to organise rather than the school or an external organisation, we have focused our offering for our EAS schools to those students. We would call on this enquiry to ensure every child has access to reliable, good quality work experience that is relevant to their chosen career path.

CPD for teachers in secondary settings is limited due to the constraints of directed time (1,265 hours per academic year).  This leaves limited time for CPD which in some settings is not a priority.  This means that teachers do not have the opportunity to develop their practice and don’t have the time or skill to implement new policies (e.g the Climate change and sustainability policy) into their class teaching. Curriculums are siloed and knowledge based therefore not equipping young people with the actual skills they need to develop and hone to move into the labour market – we are calling for nature based curriculum which allows students to  develop critical skills not knowledge gain.


The availability and attractiveness of technical and vocational options in the 11-16 phase

Skills for employment should be developed through experience, which cannot always be achieved in a classroom environment. Many schools have reduced their vocational options for secondary students in favour of GCSEs (which can be seen as more desirable). This disregards the impacts and effectiveness of learning outside the classroom and doesn’t necessarily prepare students effectively for employment in a wide range of sectors,  and doesn’t contribute towards creating a diverse workforce. Vocational options provide just that: options. Options for students, options for businesses and industry, and options to develop a wide range of experiences that improve outcomes in further education and employment.

Our Careers & Youth programme team work predominantly with local schools, colleges & partner organisations to deliver career-led activities, such as work experience and accredited courses.  We have employability courses and are developing clear career pathways for those who want to pursue careers in conservation & STEM sectors, as well as identify ZSL as a positive local employer. The target audiences are:

We run a comprehensive work experience programme for year 10 to 12 students to experience life working at a zoological organisation. With work experience not being compulsory for KS4 students, there is a very different level of engagement in careers education and work experience at different schools – it’s a bit of a post code lottery. Some local schools still hold space for Work Experience for all year 10 students, and take up places with us, whereas others don’t. Some alternatively look for jobs-related activities and experiences for the year group to experience on mass. We’ve worked with some local schools to develop such a programme, but it depends on having an engaged teacher, and doesn’t arm student with the same direct, hands on experience of the work place to help them prepare for their future career.

We are able to offer a range of vocational courses and programmes to suit the needs of local students. The only groups that have capacity to truly take advantage of these offerings are pupil referral units and SEN provisions, as they have the freedom within their timetables to build in regular visits to the zoo for hands on practical work. Our evaluation of these programmes has sown proven benefits to student social, emotional and mental health skills, which would be beneficial to all mainstream students, but there isn’t the flexibility within the current GCSE system for them to take advantage of this.


The impact of the 11-16 system on the motivation and confidence of pupils of all abilities

Our aim is to ensure that multiple purposes (& benefits) of Conservation Education are embedded into formal education.

With respect to species, the natural world, and zoo and aquarium contributions to conservation, we aim to:

Feedback survey’s from our Animal Careers Conference showed that students gained:             

-          Appreciation of the breadth of careers available – 36%

-          Confidence/reassurance/inspiration – 23%

-          Knowledge on how to access my dream role – 33%


Mental Health & Wellbeing

SEAL outcomes from LOtC which isn’t provided within mainstream education system to the extent it can be accommodated with SEN provision.   

EAS as a solution

The effectiveness of GCSEs as a means of assessing the achievements of all pupils at the end of the 11-16 phase

GCSE curricula for each individual subject teach different topics at different point in the year.  This means that cross curricular links, e.g. for these between Biology and Geography are difficult to coordinate.  This combined with the short amount of time to deliver the specification means that there is a lack of time to offer real world experiences, develop transferable skills and increase cultural capital.

Constraints on teacher time, with only 10% of their timetabled teaching time protected for planning, preparation and assessment, means that teachers often have workload that is not possible to complete within directed time. This has an impact on the amount of time that a teacher has to plan to broaden the curriculum offer, be creative and offer more experiences for students outside of the classroom

Alternative methods of assessment for measuring progress that could be considered either alongside or instead of GCSEs

Our partnerships with local schools Education Access Scheme | London Zoo have enabled teachers and students to access expertise from within ZSL and utilise the unique resources that our organisation and site provide. In fostering these relationships, it has been clear that there are many ways in which partnership working can allow schools to enhance the teaching and learning of the curriculum, which they would not otherwise have, for example by putting the content into a real-life context. It can also allow schools to develop cross-curricular links between subjects and expand the horizons and aspirations of their pupils by demonstrating the range of jobs and careers in conservation. Through these partnerships we are able to offer support to teachers, for example by providing practical guidance for organising trips outside of the classroom, subject specialism knowledge, or access to specialist resources.

One example of this was through working with St Marylebone School to enhance their teaching of Climate Change as a cross-curricular topic. We supported them to bring the whole of Year 9 to the Zoo and ran activities and provided resources which highlighted the impacts of CC on species and the science ZSL is doing to understand and mitigate these impacts. We also provided materials for them to run follow-up activities back at school. These sessions linked in to both Geography and Science teaching at school. The teacher who organised this is very approachable and may be willing to talk more about her experience of the EAS partnership.


How spending for this phase of education should be prioritised, in the context of the current fiscal climate

    1. Teacher training – giving teacher the skills, knowledge and experience to achieve a robust career curriculum which is based on real world application of skills.
    2. Work experience – lowest 20% , SEND, EAS school
  2. 11- 16 not able to learn outside – pressure of GCSE
    1. Cross-curricular activity needs to be prioritised as it replicates real world application of the labour market
    2. Not developing transferrable skills and only teaching students to hit assessment points
    3. Impact on MH/wellbeing of young people and their ability to attain, attend and flourish. Our work illustrates that excluded young people who have not flourished in mainstream, knowledge based curriculums, flourish in our alternative setting with 100% attendance, increase in engagement and increase in post-16 outcomes.


28 April 2023