The Society, along with the wider geographical community, has known for a long time that geography attracts a disproportionately low number of young people from disadvantaged and Black and ethnic minority backgrounds to study the subject.
We knew national participation trends but had little benchmark data at regional and school levels. And it is only by knowing more about who is choosing geography at school and university (and, importantly, who doesn’t), and how the rates of uptake and progression vary that we will be able to develop effective interventions to address the inequalities and ensure that geography is a vibrant discipline.
The Society therefore commissioned a significant piece of independent research using the Department for Education’s National Pupil Database and linked HESA data (information on students at university) to answer our questions. Given the source of the schools data, the results are for England only for the period from 2009/10 to 2017/18. We hope similar analyses will be undertaken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
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Over the summer of 2021 we invited BAME geographers who had been supported through our Geography Initial Teacher Training Scholarships programme to discuss and share their experiences of studying and teaching geography.
In total, eight participants took part in three focus groups. They explored a range of issues through semistructured discussions spanning their motivations for choosing geography, their experiences of studying geography, and their training and professional practice as geography teachers.
The views expressed in this report, unless otherwise referenced, are those of the participants who contributed to the discussions.
Despite large increases in the number of young people studying geography at GCSE and growing diversity in the GCSE cohort over the last decade, there has been lower uptake of geography at A Level by students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and some ethnic groups. The narrowing of the subject’s intake continues into university.
In spring 2021, the Society commissioned Censuswide to discover more about the views of young people and what motivates their choices of subjects to study at school and university, and what influences their career choices.
Featured image: Elena Mozhvilo @miracleday / Unsplash
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