Our response to this consultation support teachers’ use of a wide range of evidence, that any papers provided by the Exam Boards be optional, and that (where practical) teachers give ‘broadly comparable’ weighting to their students’ NEAs.
Response submitted 2021.
The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation and the following is made as a public response.
The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) is the UK’s learned society and professional body for geography and geographers. The Society maintains a strong overview of the discipline, its standing and practice in schools, higher education, and the workplace. This includes the accreditation of geographers and geography programmes through the award of Chartered Geographer to individuals and the Society’s accreditation of undergraduate and Masters level geography programmes.
We advise on, and support the advancement of, geography; the dissemination of geographical knowledge to the public, policy makers and other specialist audiences including teachers, Geography ITT Scholars, and those involved in expeditions and fieldwork; and training and professional development for practising geographers. We work closely with the Department for Education, Ofqual, Ofsted, the awarding organisations, and geography teachers to support good practice in teaching and learning in geographical education.
We have 16,000 Fellows and members and our work currently reaches more than three million people per year. The Society awards the professional accreditation Chartered Geographer, which is awarded to teachers through the Chartered Geographer (Teacher) designation and accredits geography undergraduate programmes. Each year the Society works in a range of ways with teachers and pupils from about half of all English secondary schools which includes work with academies and their respective MATs, free, independent and maintained schools.
The Society provides a significant programme of activities to support teachers during their training year and entry into the profession. We work regularly with Schools Direct, Teach First and HEI ITT providers to provide subject specialist input into their secondary programmes and since 2016 the Society has awarded Geography ITT Scholarships to over 500 geographers. Our annual programme of CPD reaches about 1,500+ teachers and the Society’s online resources available via www.rgs.org/schools receive over 1.3 million views annually.
May/June for the final assessment to be made.
18 month period.
Neither agree nor disagree
The papers should not be compulsory. If made compulsory, the papers would create a new 2021 examination series.
Maintenance of existing approach:
The release of the pre-prepared 2021 summer papers would provide teachers and their students with questions and assessment approaches that are familiar and understood. No new styles of questions or approaches to assessment should be introduced into the examination board papers, this should be left to the existing and well understood cycle of specification review and reform.
Content, flexibility, and modularity:
The Society would welcome the exam board papers (and mark schemes) be provided in a form which is modular, flexible and that would allow teacher to use them in a variety of forms within or alongside their existing ongoing assessments. This would allow teachers to focus these additional assessment opportunities on content that they know their students had studied and make other appropriate accommodations.
For the current examination cycles for geography GCSE and A Level there has been no reduction in content. Hence, the Society believes that there can be no practical refocusing of the geography examinations on context that all or most students will have covered. There will have been significant and substantial variation of coverage between students given
the regional application of Covid Tiers
differences in access to technology
whether students had the opportunity to undertake geographical fieldwork before lockdown
individual school’s policies towards remote learning
the capacities of students (and their home environments) to maintain their learning
Requiring that the exam board papers be taken ‘in full’ and at one sitting will inevitably create an exam season and place significant additional demands on schools, teachers and students.
The Society does not feel in current circumstances it is appropriate to place the responsibility on students to negotiate which sections of an unseen ‘final’ exam they should choose based on their individual understanding of which content they had – or had not – studied.
The Society recognises that geography students’ experience of geographical fieldwork (a normal requirement of the taught GCSE and A Level courses and their assessment) has been constrained or cancelled as a result of Covid restrictions.
The Society would support the early provision of exam board papers to schools, rather than the creation of an exam season in the summer term. This would allow teachers to undertake ongoing assessments which incorporate materials from the exam board papers and mark pupils’ work accordingly. We recognise that this presents the potential for questions to be shared more widely. However, the Society feels that trusting teachers to incorporate such external support as appropriate over the spring and summer term mitigates against the significant challenges of creating a new exam season.
(And where competed the geography NEA will have likely already been marked.)
Neither agree nor disagree.
Non-Exam Assessed course work:
The Society accepts the significant challenges presented to geography A Level students and the requirement to undertake an Independent Investigation. It is currently difficult to establish a robust understanding as to how many geography students have completed a full NEA. Where appropriate, practical and can be safely undertaken all reasonable opportunities should be offered to geography students to complete their NEA.
Where available, geography teachers should draw on their students’ NEAs within their assessments.
Under normal circumstances the geography NEA is worth 20% of a student’s final marks. The Society recommends that geography teachers give ‘broadly comparable’ consideration to the weighting of a student’s A Level geography NEA within the overall range of evidence they use to undertake their assessment.
No additional comments.
The Society would recommend that exam board papers being provided at the earliest opportunity and it is the Society's view that the existing, pre-prepared summer 2021 papers could be modularised and then released promptly to schools. This would allow teachers to incorporate relevant sections, questions or modules into their ongoing assessment planning.
The Society would not welcome a ‘release date’ at end of the summer term which inevitably creates a new exam season.
If the papers are released early and openly teachers can the incorporate into ongoing assessment and use as the basis of their assessments undertaken over the spring and summer terms.
Such a move would further support the trust placed in teachers’ judgements, complemented by appropriate support from the Exam Boards, across the full range of their students’ work.
No answer given.
Our response highlights the employability of geography graduates, and the relevance of geographical skills in industry. We also call for better access to quality information on courses and careers, and funding support for teaching and research.
Our response to the review of the curriculum advocates for the explicit inclusion of geography in named areas of understanding, and of geographical knowledge in the curriculum.
We welcome Ofqual proposals to discontinue some courses, and strongly opposes a proposed regulatory framework to let exam boards develop core subject content.
Our response calls for greater emphasis on fundamental knowledge, understanding and skills, and advocates for subject-specialist staff and later implementation of streaming into vocational or academic pathways.
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