Review of the National Curriculum
National Curriculum for Geography consultation
The Society would like to thank its many members and Fellows, as well as many other geographers, who have responded to the Department for Education review of the draft National Curriculum for geography. It is heartening to know that geography has such an active and engaged community.
There are many positive developments in the draft curriculum which the Society has welcomed. For example, it provides a focus on geographical place knowledge, alongside geographical understanding and skills; rebalances human and physical geography, redressing the erosion of the latter which had occurred over recent years; good coverage of geographical skills, requiring the use of globes, maps (including Ordnance Survey maps) and GIS at Key Stage 3; and an explicit requirement for fieldwork across Key Stage 1, 2 and 3.
The Society’s response, which is consistent with the views that the Society has previously expressed to Ministers and officials, also identifies that climate change should be an explicit requirement within the National Curriculum for geography at Key Stage Three. View the Society’s full response to the consultation (PDF).
The Society also recognises, and we have made the Department for Education aware of this, that our Fellows and members hold a wide range of views about the curriculum. In this context, the Society’s response does not seek to represent the breadth and range of views expressed by its membership.
On 7 February 2013, the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, announced to Parliament details on the future of the national curriculum to be implemented from September 2014, including for geography. This was the culmination of a process for the review of the National Curriculum in England which began in January 2011. The Society was involved in the process, responding to formal consultations and as part of an advisory group to Ministers.
The proposals, on which they were consulting, represented the outcomes of that review. Available documents published include:
Our immediate response: The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) welcomes the proposed new geography Programme of Study for pupils aged 5 to 14. It has a necessary focus on core knowledge: the understanding of locations, country contexts, the key natural and human characteristics of our world, and the human and environmental processes that shape and change the world constantly and differentially. It requires map work and fieldwork at all key stages. In this way it clearly identifies the building blocks of geographical knowledge, understanding and skills that should be taught, and which underpin the understanding of more complex topics in later stages of study.
The Department for Education proposals: In summary - 'A high-quality geography education should inspire in pupils a curiosity and fascination about the world and its people that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Teaching should equip pupils with knowledge about diverse places, people, resources and environments, together with a deep understanding of the Earth’s key physical and human processes. As pupils progress, their growing knowledge about the world helps them to deepen their understanding of the interaction between physical and human processes, and of the formation of landscapes and environments. Geographical knowledge provides the tools and approaches that explain how the Earth’s features at different scales are shaped, interconnected and change over time.'
Secondary school accountability: At the same time the government has consulted on secondary school accountability. The Society has responded (PDF) and argued that the revised school accountability measures, which would report on a pupils progress in eight subject areas, should include an explicit requirement that pupils study a humanity GCSE (either geography or history).
Further details can be read in this briefing on the curriculum and accountability (PDF).
Reform of GCSE examinations
On 17 September 2012 the Secretary of State for Education, Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP, announced plans to replace GCSE exams - including in geography - with new English Baccalaureate Certificates, with a consultation - to which the Society responded (PDF). It was announced by the Secretary of State in Parliament on 07 February 2013, alongside changes to the Curriculum (details above), that the government will now not proceed with this approach, instead seeking reforms to existing GCSE exams, includng for geography. Further information
Geography in the English Baccalaureate
The Schools White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, was published by the Department for Education on 09 December 2010.
Included within this White Paper was the announcement of “a new award – the English Baccalaureate – for any student who secures good GCSE or iGCSE passes in English, mathematics, the sciences, a modern or ancient foreign language and a humanity such as history or geography. This combination of GCSEs at grades A*-C will entitle the student to a certificate recording their achievement”.
The Society welcomes the fact that geography is one of the two humanity options alongside history.
On 20 July 2011 the Department of Education announced that the subjects in the Eng Bacc will stay the same for the next set of league tables to be published in January 2012 based on results from 2011 (25 August 2011).
The Society has submitted evidence (PDF) to the Education Select Committee of the House of Common's Inquiry into the English Baccalaureate which closed on Tuesday 8 March. The committee published its final report on 28 July 2011.
Reform of A Level examinations
On 23 January 2013 the Secretary of State for Education, Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP, announced proposed changes to A Level structure, including the development of new AS levels as a standalone qualification. These proposals were outlined in a letter to OFQUAL. As part of these changes the Russell Group of Universities are to set up an academic board to advise the exams watchdog Ofqual on the content of A levels. The working group on the new standards body will be chaired by geographer/Society Fellow Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick, and will focus on A levels in maths, the sciences, languages, geography, history and Classics.
Schools exam results
Detailed analysis of GCSE and A Level results are available from 2000 to 2012. Results from 2012 were published on 16 August (A Level) and 23 August (GCSEs), both showing increases in the numbers taking geography.
- Over 187,000 pupils took an exam in geography GCSE this year – placing it as the ninth most popular subjects taken. This is a 3.5% increase on 2011 (and compares to an increase of just 1.4% in the total number of exams taken across all subjects)
- Over 32,000 and nearly 46,000 took an exam at either A Level or AS Level respectively in 2012, increasing by 2.5% and 1.4% on 2011 (at the same time as a 0.6% decline in the total number of exams sat across all subjects)
Other policy monitoring
Details of other policy announcements related to schools made by government and parliament can be found on our Schools policy monitoring page.
Page last updated 19.04.13