The Department for Education (DfE) has announced reforms to the content of A Level geography which include a welcome rebalancing of human and physical geography topics as well as a greater emphasis on the understanding of key geographical concepts and processes.
The Society is particularly pleased that the new A Level requires all specifications to contain a balanced core of content that emphasises the understanding of social, economic and environmental processes and how they shape and change communities, places, regions and landscapes. This new core content centres on the study of landscape systems, water and carbon cycling, global geopolitics and governance, and changing places, and the inter-connections between processes at local and global scales run throughout it.
The Society is also pleased to see a requirement that the 40% ‘optional’ content, proposed by individual Awarding Organisations, must include the study of human-environment interactions.
The new A Level, to be taught from September 2016, builds in good progression from content at GCSE, and is relevant both to students who end their geographical studies at A Level and to those who pursue studies at university in geography and a range of other subjects.
The Society strongly supports the introduction of an independent investigation at A Level, which will develop students’ fieldwork and geographical skills as well as help prepare them for progression on to higher education. The identification of a ‘minimum requirement’ for fieldwork at AS and A Level will strengthen fieldwork in many schools.
Dr Rita Gardner, the Society’s Director, was a member of the geography panel set up by the A Level Content Advisory Board (ALCAB). She said: “The AS and A Level reforms for geography complete a systematic review of the curriculum from Key Stage 1 to 5 in this most important subject. It is very refreshing to see subject knowledge placed at the heart of the curriculum, a good level of demand introduced into the content, a central role for fieldwork and geographical analysis, and clear progression in learning built into the whole suite of reforms. It is essential that young people today understand the changing world and the drivers of those changes, both locally and globally. It is important too that they and are inspired by the world’s diversity, interconnectedness and beauty, and the need to sustain it as the home of humankind.”
The Society agrees with ALCAB that while the content of the revised A Level will be rewarding to teach and to study, some of the required content, the confident teaching of quantitative methods and geographic information skills, and the demands of individual investigations will be new and challenging for many geography teachers. The Society will therefore be supporting the changes with a programme of continuing professional development (CPD).
Every year we support over 60 fieldwork projects with our range of grants, many of which have application deadlines coming up over the next few weeks.
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Greg Dow is a Research Manager at the Blizard Institute of Queen Mary University of London.
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