Frequently asked questions
Q: What is the Geography Ambassador scheme?
A: The Geography Ambassador Scheme is a voluntary scheme which recruits, trains and supports undergraduate and postgraduate geographers from universities and the workplace, to act as Ambassadors for geography in the classroom. This introduces pupils to the benefits of studying geography and encourages them to take the subject past the compulsory stages. It has a ‘disciplinary’ focus, which differentiates the Geography Ambassador Programme from other generic ambassadorial programmes.
The Ambassadors act as positive role models for pupils and illustrate, with enthusiasm, both the specific and transferable knowledge and skills they have developed as a geographer. It is an entirely voluntary scheme, totally free for schools, with the Society covering reasonable travel and resource expenses for Ambassadors.
The scheme provides c1100+ Ambassador sessions annually, typically to class-sizes of pupils, reaching an audience of c30, 000 young people.
Q: How will this benefit our students?
A: The students will get the following experience from the scheme:
- Improved presentational, interpersonal and organisational skills alongside experience developing their own resources, sessions and presentations
- The opportunity to make a direct, positive impact on pupils’ understanding and enthusiasm about geography
- The opportunity to be part of a scheme with over 2,000 active volunteers and a vibrant community at a renowned geographical institution
- Excellent work experience, especially but by no means exclusively if they are considering becoming a teacher
- The chance to develop their geographical and professional network with undergraduates, graduates in the workplace, teachers and organisations
- The opportunity to join the Society as a Fellow or member
- Travel expenses and resource costs will be paid by the RGS-IBG
Q: How many other universities are involved?
A: Alongside the Society, approximately 40 British universities are involved in and support the Scheme.
Q: How is the scheme funded?
A: The Geography Ambassador Scheme is kindly supported by Esri UK, some of whose staff are also trained to provide GIS Ambassador sessions.
Q: How will this interlink with Widening Participation (WP) agendas?
A: The Ambassador Programme has the potential to contribute to widening participation (WP) agendas through contacts with schools; both locally and further afield. The Society fulfils request from schools for sessions regardless of school background. However, the Society does undertake some specific marketing of the scheme to ’WP-Schools’ and recognises the value of encouraging applications into HE from a more diverse range of candidates.
Q: How can I get my university involved in the scheme?
A: Simply email the Scheme’s Coordinator using the details below and we can take you through the process of getting involved. It’s simple, easy, centrally coordinated at the Society and free.
Q: How is our student’s activity on the scheme recorded and reported?
A: All activity by every Ambassador on the scheme is recorded centrally by the Coordinator for the Scheme. Universities involved will get a report once a year (the scheme runs on a calendar year for its reporting) which will include all Ambassadors trained, those who have been active, schools visited and other relevant information. This report usually comes out around Easter every year and will be sent directly to you by email.
Q: Our university only has a small cohort of geography students, can they still get involved?
A: Yes, training sessions will be run at locations throughout the UK, including at the Society in London. Students are welcome to attend any of the training events.
Q: We have a large number of students who are interested in becoming Ambassadors, can we host our own training event?
A: Yes, if you would are interested in hosting a training event, get in contact with the Ambassador Coordinator and this can be arranged. You will need a minimum of 15 students to host a training session.
Organising a Visit
Q: How do I ask for an Ambassador to conduct a visit at my school?
A: The best way to do this is to fill in the online form to request a Geography Ambassador visit.
Q: How far in advance do I need to arrange a visit?
A: The earlier the better as this allows plenty of time for preparation and communication between you and the Ambassadors. However, if you need to arrange one at short notice, get in touch with the Ambassador Coordinator with all the details as soon as possible and he will do their best to find you an Ambassador.
Q: How many pupils should there be in a session?
A: Anywhere between 5 and 35 pupils is appropriate because it encourages meaningful interactivity and questions from the pupils; this becomes more challenging with larger groups. Assembly style sessions in lecture setup are not appropriate for Ambassadors to deliver.
If you would like a session for a larger group get in touch with the Ambassador Coordinator and they will be able to advise.
Q: How long do sessions need to be?
A: 45 minutes to an hour. However, it ultimately your decision to decide on an appropriate length of time in relation to the specific session topics the Ambassadors are covering and timetabling restrictions. It is important to let the Ambassadors know what time they will have and whether this changes. If the time is under half an hour it isn’t appropriate for Ambassadors unless part of a day visit (for example an Ambassador running a session for year 9 pupils and then chatting to some year 12s for 20 minutes is fine).
Q: Is it ok to have Ambassadors in more than once? And how would I rebook a visit?
A: Most definitely! You can have multiple visits for one age group or across different years; the previous Ambassadors can either come again or new Ambassadors can be asked. You can request multiple visits on the online form. To rebook, you can either fill in a new online request form or you may also wish to directly email the previous Ambassador who came to the school to see if they are interested and available.
Q: What type of schools do Ambassadors work with?
A: Primarily any school with secondary age pupils. There are no restrictions on the type of school that Ambassadors can visit.
Q: What age groups can Ambassadors deliver a session to?
A: Between ages 11 and 18, however if you would like a session to an alternate age group this can be discussed with the Ambassador Coordinator as the Scheme does very occasionally work with primary ages.
Q: Is a visit by an Ambassador guaranteed if I request one?
A: Our Ambassadors are really enthusiastic and committed, and we’re normally able to fill every visit that teachers request. However, as it is a voluntary scheme and Ambassadors often have other commitments so we can not 100% guarantee that an Ambassador will be available.
Q: I would like an in-depth careers session for my pupils - is there scope for this?
A: Yes - we have a number of Graduate Ambassadors as part of the scheme all of whom are working in a variety of professions having graduated in geography. Please do bear in mind that these Ambassadors are in full-time employment and their availability will be more limited than undergraduate Ambassadors so evening sessions are preferable.
Q: I would like some GIS support from Ambassadors - is this available?
A: Yes - as part of our partnership with Esri UK we have a number of GIS Ambassadors, most of whom are employed by Esri. Again, please bear in mind that their availability will be more limited than undergraduate Ambassadors.Some of our Ambassadors are also confident enough to deliver GIS sessions.
Facilitating the Visit
Q: How as a teacher do I support the Ambassadors when they are working with my pupils?
A: As a teacher, you are expected to have an active disciplinary role in the session an Ambassador is delivering. Ambassadors are not teachers and are not expected to do any disciplining of pupils. In addition, it is your responsibility as a teacher to make sure that Ambassadors, as guests in your school, are treated with respect and common courtesy.
Q: Is the school expected to host the Ambassadors for the entire day including lunch times?
A: If the Ambassadors have visits that span across the whole day it would be expected that they shall remain in the school premises during breaks, however, whilst it would be appreciated if you are able to offer lunch this is not a necessity or expected, just let them know beforehand and they can bring something themselves.
Q: What resources are sent with the Ambassadors? Do the Ambassadors need any resources to be provided by the school?
A: The Ambassadors will bring the following resources with them:
- A school membership leaflet
- A Going Places with Geography (GPWG) poster and booklet (also available online),
- An Esri UK information leaflet,
- Any other relevant documents.
The Ambassadors should bring all their own resources; however they may require a certain classroom setup in order to run their session this may include PowerPoint, internet access, audio for videos, individual technology for students (e.g. PC’s/Laptops/IPads/Mobiles). This should all be worked out in advance between yourself and the Ambassador as we appreciate schools have different setups when it comes to this.
Q: How much control do I have over the content that the ambassadors will deliver?
A: The Ambassador scheme aims to help support geography in schools and as a result aims to show what the subject can become when you take it further; it does this by utilizing individual Ambassador’s enthusiasm for particular aspects of geography that would be relevant to school pupils. As a result of this, the scheme is not tied to the curriculum and is most of the time used to complement your teaching of geography in school. Ambassadors will always run through their session with you prior to them visiting your school. However, the Ambassadors are able to work with you to develop sessions that fit the curriculum or particular specifications if you require. We also advise that prior to the visit the teacher and organising Ambassador have a phone conversation to ensure both of you are comfortable with the arrangements. You can also contact the Ambassador Coordinator at any point during this time.
Q: What if I want a specific type of Ambassador visit, like a Development or GIS focussed one?
A: All you need to do is let the Ambassador Coordinator know this when you request a visit and they'll make sure the Ambassadors are able to deliver the content required.
Q: Do Ambassadors need DBS checks?
A: For the majority of Ambassador activity, they do not legally need to be DBS checked this is because as a teacher you are expected to never leave them unaccompanied in the school environment. There are exceptions to this however, such as if an Ambassador supports a field trip or sees the same group of pupils frequently. In these cases please contact the Ambassador Coordinator.
Q: Is the Ambassador scheme free?
A: The Ambassador scheme is totally free of charge for both schools and Ambassadors
Q: Do I have to fill out a school feedback form for each session delivered?
A: This slightly depends on the organisation of the visit. If it was a different Ambassador hosting each session in the same visit it would be expected that multiple forms would be filled out as they relate to the session delivery. However, if it is the same Ambassadors delivering repeat sessions throughout this visit, one feedback form will be sufficient.
Q: I am organising the visit but won’t be present for the sessions is this ok?
A: As long as another member of teaching staff who knows the pupils and will be able to support the Ambassadors effectively, be present during the visit this is ok. It is important that they fully understand the expectations and do not leave the Ambassador unaccompanied. They will be asked to fill in the online feedback form for the Ambassadors.
Q: What other resources can I get from the RGS-IBG?
A: The education department at the RGS-IBG provides lots of resources for school teachers at every level of teaching; this includes online blocks of work, field work support and training courses. You can find out more here.
Q: What if you are unhappy with any aspect of the visit?
A: The way the scheme is set up places a big emphasis on communication between yourself as a teacher, the Society and the Ambassadors, to ensure all parties are happy with the visit prior to it going ahead and thus minimizing the potential for things to go wrong. Ambassadors will have agreed to adhere to a code of conduct prior to joining the scheme and please make sure that you ask for this from the Ambassador if they have not already sent to you. In preparing to have an Ambassador visit your school, please contact the Ambassador Coordinator if there is anything that you are feeling uncomfortable about. If you do experience any problems please do let us know in as much detail as possible on the feedback form so that we can rectify the situation and ensure that it is not repeated.
After the visit, if you are unhappy with anything in relation to the visit you should contact the scheme's coordinator on Ambassadors@rgs.org as soon as possible.
Q: When searching for, and initially getting in touch with schools, what do I say?
A: All of this information can be found at www.rgs.org/ambassadorsresources
Q: What do you do if a teacher doesn’t get back to you?
A: Don’t be afraid to (politely!) pester. Teachers are very busy and often, though not deliberately, arranging an Ambassador visit may fall down their priority list. Don’t be afraid to give them a reminder email if it’s been a couple of weeks since you last heard from them. They won’t be annoyed – if anything they’ll thank you for the reminder.
Q: It’s a week before the visit, what things should I make sure I check before I go into the school?
A: You will need to ensure that:
- You won’t be left alone at any point on your visit to the school – explain that you’re not DBS checked
- You and the teacher are happy with the session content and how best to run it with the pupils
- You know where the school is and where to go on the day, what time you need to arrive, etc.
- That other Ambassadors are still able to come
- Whether you need any ID for the schools records
Remember to call the teacher to confirm everything and ask any last questions you may have a week before the visit.
Q: How many pupils should be in a session?
A: Anywhere between five and 35 pupils (A-Level classes are often smaller) is appropriate. The scheme does not support assembly style sessions. However, if a teacher especially wants a session for a larger group (e.g. 60 pupils) it is possible to do this with the appropriate time/space/amount of Ambassadors and activities. Generally though, working with under 35 pupils preferable because it encourages interactivity and questions from the pupils and this becomes more challenging with larger groups (it’s worth letting the teacher know this).
Q: How long do sessions need to be?
A: An average session time is about 45-60 minutes but it is up to you and the teacher to decide on an appropriate length of time in relation to the specific session. For example, if you are going into a year 11 class to mainly discuss A-level and university progression, you may only want 45 minutes or so whereas in a more active session with year 9s the full hour may be beneficial. Be aware that schools have different timetables and their lessons may be different lengths.
Q: Is it okay to do a visit on my own?
A: It’s totally up to you. While most Ambassadors prefer to team up for a lot of visits, some do a mixture of individual and visits in pairs. Often Ambassadors will go back to their old schools on their own but it’s really personal preference. If you need help for a visit you have organised yourself definitely post it up on the Basecamp group and chances are someone will team up with you. However, there may be circumstances others are not available to make the visit and in this case just let the Ambassador Coordinator (email@example.com) know and they can help find someone to team up with you.
Q: How far in advance should I email the Ambassador Coordinator for a visit pack?
A: As soon as you have confirmed the date of your visit to a school, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can send everything out to you in good time. Sometimes things will be last-minute but the earlier you email the better. It is worth remembering that the Ambassador Coordinator works normal office hours Monday-Friday so can only respond and send out resources in this time.
Q: Do I need to email the Ambassador Coordinator each time?
A: Yes, it is important to copy the Coordinator into emails to ensure that you are responded to as quickly as possible.
Q: I’m a Graduate Ambassador, how does this differ from Undergraduate Ambassadors?
A: There is a Graduate Ambassador Role description for you to refer to. If you do not already have a copy of this it is available from the Ambassador Coordinator and the Basecamp Files tab.
Q: Do I have to fill out a feedback form after every visit?
A: Yes it is important for Ambassador Coordinator to see how the visit went, what you enjoyed about the sessions and what could be improved upon. It also allows for a record of the amount of sessions delivered and number of pupils involved to be taken which is also important for your own personal development record as part of the scheme.
Q: Does the teacher have to fill out a feedback form for each Ambassador?
A: This is preferable. However, if a teacher would prefer to make joint comments about the sessions then as long as the names of the Ambassadors who attended are on the form this is fine. The teacher’s feedback will be shared with Ambassadors via email.
Q: Do I give the feedback form to the teacher who I organised the visit with, even if they weren’t present at the session?
A: Please give the feedback form to the teacher who was present in the session. If multiple sessions were delivered and different teachers we present at each, please give a feedback form to each of the teachers.
Q: What travel expenses are covered by the scheme?
A: The scheme covers any travel expenses you may incur when doing visits as, although you will be conducting most visits locally, we appreciate that you will need to travel for some. The society can cover petrol if you drive, at 43p a mile, the cheapest possible rail fare (proof required via screenshot), and other forms of public transport. Taxi journeys can also be reimbursed if this particular form of travel was essential (i.e. the school was in a remote area). Remember, for everything other than mileage, we need proof of expenditure – namely receipts and booking confirmations – in order to refund your expenditure.
If your expenses are likely to exceed £30 you must have the agreement of the Ambassador Coordinator before undertaking the visit.
Q: Are any other expenses than travel covered by the scheme?
A: The only other things that can be claimed are resources, e.g. printing costs where there is a receipt, newspapers, etc. Any resources bought must be for reasonable use as an Ambassador visit should not normally cost more than a few pounds. Anything above this must be pre-agreed beforehand.
For some resources it may be easier for you to request them to be sent to you in the visit pack. For instance the Society can print and laminate copies of session materials if enough time is given to do so. Overnight accommodation can only be covered with prior agreement with the Society and only in exceptional circumstances. Food and subsistence is not normally covered unless pre-agreed.
Q: Can the Society reimburse my expenses prior to the visit?
A: The expenses are done on an evidence based system, so it is only possible to reimburse them after the event has happened, however if there are any problems with provision of expenses please get in touch with the Ambassador Coordinator.
Q: Can I send expenses forms back electronically?
A: Yes there are electronic copies of the form on the memory stick/Basecamp group. However, evidence must be scanned in in order for the reimbursement to go ahead. To save paper, send your expenses form back this way if possible.
Q: I have been invited on a field-trip. Can the Society pay for this?
A: The Society cannot cover the cost of an Ambassador attending residential fieldtrip (either in the UK or beyond) in an Ambassador role. Often schools will cover the cost of this themselves if they have invited you along.
Q: What should I do if the teacher doesn’t have any control over the class?
A: Prior to arranging the visit the teacher should have received copies of the school and teacher information sheet and the teacher FAQs from you, in these it contains instructions as to how the teacher should support you in delivering the session. As a result they should be aware of their obligation to discipline the pupils where necessary, thus minimizing the likelihood of this occurring. However, if you are in a situation where the pupils are not treating you appropriately or there are discipline issues, speak to the teacher. They will be in the room with you so just politely ask them (out of earshot of the kids) to help control the class as it is not your role to discipline the pupils. The teacher should then respond to this and the session will continue smoothly. If there are issues please contact the Ambassador Coordinator about it and write it on the Ambassador Feedback form.
Q: What if the teacher is talking over me or is taking over the session?
A: The teacher should understand that you are leading the session with appropriate support from them, however if they begin to talk over you or take over then it might be best to have a polite word with them or if you do not feel comfortable to do so please contact the Ambassador Coordinator following the session. As with any issue or problem it is imperative that you let us know as soon as you can.
Q: What if some of the pupils aren’t participating?
A: Remember, you can’t realistically engage every single school pupil you see, 100% of the time. If it’s just one or two pupils and they’re not disrupting the session (being noisy), just ignore them. However if the whole class is disengaged this is an issue for the teacher to address. If they don’t, the Ambassador Coordinator needs to know about it as soon as possible.
Q: The teacher hasn’t been in contact much before the visit, and I am unsure of what the deal is. What do I do?
A: If you have already tried emailing a couple of times, and if you have a contact number for the school/teacher, try to ring them at lunchtime or just after the school day ends. If you are still not getting a response then contact the Ambassador Coordinator and they can try to get in contact from the Society.
Q: What if the teacher leaves me unaccompanied with pupils?
A: This is very unlikely to happen as the teachers will have been made aware through all the literature will have sent them. You are not routinely DBS (previously CRB) checked as part of the Scheme (although you may have one anyway) and you may want to double check before you go into the school that teachers understand this. However, you do find yourself on your own with pupils, you can immediately deal with it in the following ways:
- If there are multiple Ambassadors in the session maybe get one of them to find the teacher and ask them to come back to the session and explain why.
- If you are alone, carry on for the moment and send a well behaved pupil to a classroom nearby and ask the staff member there to find the teacher for you as you shouldn’t be left unaccompanied with the pupils.
Remember you’re perfectly entitled to leave, find a teacher, and not re-enter the room until someone is with you.
As aforementioned it is unlikely you will be put in this situation, but if this happens make sure you report it to the Ambassador Coordinator even if you managed to sort the situation out at the time.
Q: What resources do I get sent out from the RGS for each visit and what can I ask for?
A: For each visit you will be sent resources for you and the teacher.
For the teacher there will be:
- a wall map for the teacher to display in the classroom
- details regarding the Ambassador feedback process
- a Going Places with Geography (GPWG) poster and booklet
- an Esri information leaflet
For the Ambassador, there is:
- an expenses claim form, a prepaid envelope
- the appropriate amount of pencils for the group you are visiting
In order to receive a visit pack you will need to email the Ambassador Coordinator to inform them of the visit and the number of students being seen at this point, and if there is something else you require such as extra forms, extra GPWG booklets (10 booklet limit per session unless with a careers element), or other information for you or the teacher please specify in the email.
Q: How often should I be contacting the Ambassador Coordinator and do they need to be copied in to everything?
A: You should keep the Ambassador Coordinator in the loop about all Ambassador visits and the best way to do this is to copy them into email discussion with the school teacher and to contact them when you have a finalised date for a visit. It is important when emailing about anything to contact the Ambassador Coordinator and they will get back to you as soon as possible. However remember to contact them about visit packs with plenty of time and that they will respond and send things out within usual office hours. Be aware if you are copying them into general emails with the teacher you may not always get a response as it might not be necessary.
Q: Can you carry on being a part of the scheme once you have graduated?
A: Yes! You can remain part of the Ambassador network and share your experiences of both studying geography and working in a geography related field. This is especially desirable for schools running careers fairs.
Q: A teacher is asking me to do a session on a topic I am not sure about, where can I get help/resources?
A: Above everything else you want to make sure your sessions are based around something you are interested in and don’t feel like you are obliged to cover a geographical topic that you have little experience in. However, if you are up for the challenge of doing something new and have discussed this with the teacher beforehand there is help available. You can utilise the Basecamp group and ask fellow Ambassadors for ideas, as they may well have done a similar session or have expertise in this areas, or alternatively ask the Ambassador Coordinator.
Q: We’re struggling to recruit students for GCSE/A Level, can Ambassadors help with this?
A: Yes, absolutely, this is one of the primary objectives of the Ambassador Scheme. Ambassadors are positive, enthusiastic role models and their sessions aim to introduce students to the tangible benefits of studying geography, widen their perceptions of the subject, inform them about the breadth of career options with geography and highlight the transferable skills in geography.