THE generosity of a former pupil will see the launch of a new GCSE at a leading Lake District secondary school.

From September students at Coniston’s John Ruskin School will study Environmental and Land-Based Sciences for the first time.

The two-year course is being funded by former student Peter George, who attended the school in the 1970s and was inspired by science teacher Roger Long.

Now chief executive at a leading pharmaceutical company, Mr George has agreed to fund the course, which will be run by science teacher and local farmer Rachel Mallett for the next four years.


Of Mr Long, Mr George said: “He made learning fun, he seemed to care.

“He was a park warden as well and encouraged students to join him building footpaths but while we did that he taught chemistry.

“Repairing a wall at the copper mines would become a lesson on metals. It was simple and very effective and made chemistry real.”

He added: “I have done well for myself and wondered how I could help others.

“My original approach to the head teacher was to sponsor a chemistry prize or fund some science type project. It soon became clear that John Ruskin had more pressing needs and also clear that once again it had an inspirational and energetic science teacher, who was very enthusiastic about introducing a GCSE that she thought met the needs of the local children.

“I love the Lakes and as a rural area it needs its farming.

“Education is focussed on national targets not local needs, so this feels like the right thing to do.”

The GCSE will cover everything from animal husbandry, horticulture to large animals and has proved popular as 11 of the 33 pupils in the Year 10 cohort have taken up the course.

Head teacher Miriam Bailey said: “It will help meet the needs of the area and give local people the chance to gain qualifications relevant to their livelihood.

“We do have a lot of students from agricultural backgrounds but there have been concerns there isn’t something available at GCSE level that links to agricultural colleges like Newton Rigg and Myerscough. The course has been taken up by both high achievers and those who struggle academically. It will bring another dimension to the school.”