New GCSE’s to cover Life Cycle Assessment


The new syllabus for GCSE Chemistry, to be taught in schools from 2016 for examination in 2017, will now cover Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). If take-up stays the same, this should mean around 125,000 children in 2017 will have a knowledge of LCA gained through this route.

The exact requirement is as follows:

“Life cycle assessment and recycling

  • describe the basic principles in carrying out a life-cycle assessment of a material or product
  • interpret data from a life-cycle assessment of a material or product
  • describe a process where a material or product is recycled for a different use, and explain why this is viable
  • evaluate factors that affect decisions on recycling.”

However, strangely given the focus at GCSE, the syllabus for the revised Chemistry AS and A levels does not include any mention of Life Cycle Assessment.

In GCSE Design and Technology for teaching from 2017, the students will need to demonstrate their knowledge of science, including

Life cycle assessment and recycling: eg. the basic principles in carrying out a life cycle assessment of a material or product, with an example of the use of this skill being “selection of materials and components based on ethical factors, taking into consideration the ecological and social footprint of materials.”

Currently just under 200,000 children take this GCSE, 4% of the GCSEs taken in 2015.

At present, LCA is normally taught as part of Post Graduate Degree courses, though there are some undergraduate courses covering it.   Given most LCA practitioners consider interpretation of LCA data to be one of the most difficult parts of LCA, it will be interesting to see how Schools take forward the teaching of LCA and its interpretation – something even LCA practitioners recognise to be difficult.

I’m just in the process of becoming a STEM Ambassador, so I hope this will be something that I will be able to help with locally.

And of course, the teaching of LCA, or just the concept of embodied carbon remains something that could be given more focus in Architecture, Engineering and Construction Degrees.

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About constructionlca

Co-author Green Guide to Specification, expert in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), EPDs and sustainability for the construction materials sector Researching Building LCA and how we can increase uptake at the Open University. Tweets as @constructionlca
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