Geography is gaining popularity in UK schools. Numbers of GCSE geography students are at their highest for nine years, while AS and A Level entries have also received a boost. More students are also choosing to study geography at university, with acceptances for 2014 up 5.7% on last year.
However, in a rapidly changing world and with geographical knowledge advancing, school geography content must remain current. To ensure that school geography maintains its status as a vibrant and relevant subject, the Society has been particularly active in responding to education policy proposals. Great effort has also been spent ensuring students gain the skills needed to progress to university.
Following the revised National Curriculum – which will be taught for the first time this September – the Department for Education has consulted on the content and assessment of GCSEs and A Levels. The Society responded to both reviews, welcoming the GCSE geography proposals but calling for a full review of A Level content.
“We are pleased to see GCSE geography focus on understanding the world’s changing and interconnected people, places and environments,” says Steve Brace, Head of Education and Outdoor Learning. “The proposals include key elements of geographical study and we particularly welcome the unequivocal recognition of the importance of fieldwork.”
The Society welcomed many aspects of A Level assessment, such as the commitment to fieldwork and the opportunity to reintroduce an assessed research project. However, the proposed A Level geography content was highly repetitive of that specified in the new draft GCSE. The Society believed that the proposed content did not provide a necessary level of challenge and missed the opportunity to provide a better bridge into higher education.
Following calls from the Society and others, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced in February that A Level geography would undergo a full content review and that first teaching of the specification would be pushed back to 2016 as a result.
The A Level Content Advisory Board (ALCAB) has been established by the Russell Group of universities to advise on the content of reformed A Levels in facilitating subjects, such as geography. In light of the announcement, ALCAB is setting up a panel of subject experts, including the Society, to advise on the content of the reformed A Level geography.
On hearing the announcement, RGS-IBG Director Dr Rita Gardner said: “This full review is very welcome and will help ensure that future A Levels are a definite progression from GCSE and provide good preparation for entry into an undergraduate course.”
As well as helping to shape what is taught in geography lessons throughout the country, the Society is also supporting teachers in implementing these changes. A new series of Continued Professional Development courses have been designed, specifically to support teaching of the new National Curriculum. New online resources are also being developed.
Schools can stay in the touch with the Society, get access to resources and receive support with Schools Membership. Students can support their studies by becoming a Young Geographer (aged 14-24).
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