The education secretary’s decision represents a victory for Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, who has waged a sustained battle in Whitehall to ensure the topic’s retention.
The move to omit it from the new curriculum took on a symbolic status. Gove insisted it was part of his drive to slim an unwieldy curriculum down, to give teachers greater freedom to show their initiative.
It was claimed that climate change would appear under science. But environmentalists and science teachers claimed the omission would downgrade the topic and make its existence a matter of greater dispute.
There were also fears that pupils’ awareness of its importance would decline.
The curriculum is due to be published before the summer holidays. It is understood to include a specific reference to changes in weather and the climate from the ice age to the present.
Those familiar with the final version say it will be clear about the role of humans in climate change. It will refer to how human and physical processes interact to influence and change landscapes, environments and the climate, and how humans depend on the effective functioning of natural systems.
There has been a changing mood in parts of the Conservative party over climate change, with important figures such as Peter Lilley and Lord Lawson challenging its whole premise and the science behind it. Some feared that Gove was putting up a resistance to Davey to pander to the right. But Gove remains a party moderniser and at one point saw the greening of the party as central to its electability.