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Raising aspiration and achievement through fieldwork

Geography, and geographical field-work and field-research, can support young peoples’ aspiration and achievement

Between 2008 and 2016 the Learning and Leading programme provided opportunities for disadvantaged young people to take part in residential fieldwork; geographically focused gap experiences, and higher education field-research.  In addition, teachers in schools facing challenges received fieldwork training. 

From 2017, through support from the Alexander Awards, the Society is offering disadvantaged for A level students, first year undergraduates and also those planning undergraduate expeditions and field-research.

The programme consisted of carefully managed opportunities for learning and personal development. 

Placements were available for:

  • A Level students: fully funded geography fieldwork summer schools 
  • A Level geography teachers: funded weekend fieldwork masterclasses 
  • Gap year students: bursaries and mentoring to support an overseas gap experience
  • Geography undergraduates: summer fieldwork apprenticeships

Participants’ learning experiences have been shared widely to encourage more young people to undertake fieldwork, get the best out of their gap year, and make the most of their studies.

Through the programme the Society has:

  • Used fieldwork and gap experiences to promote the learning and personal development of young people and teachers who, through challenging circumstances or lack of opportunity, had not been able to participate in such work before
  • Provided mentoring and training to help the individuals gain the most from their placements
  • Built a network of young individuals who have faced challenging circumstances or disadvantage, to support them in their future studies and careers
  • Supported schools to enthuse and motivate their geography pupils through enhancing the quality of their fieldwork programmes
  • Shared the learning, reflections and outcomes of the Learning and Leading placements so that other young people and teachers can learn from them
  • Developed the Society’s support for fieldwork and outdoor learning as part of our strategic plan

Feedback from the 2019 fieldwork summer school

This year, 15 students were selected to attend the RGS-IBG Alexander Award A-Level Summer School 2019, held 19-23 August 2019 at FSC Juniper Hall in Surrey. Our application process continues to include teacher nomination forms alongside pre-course questioning upon acceptance. We ask all students to outline their ambitions, motivations and hopes for the Summer School, in order to shape our course to meet their needs. This year, 15 students voiced their hopes for academic learning combined with building confidence, group work, problem-solving and gaining skills from experienced staff. 

“Going into the summer school I'm not sure any of us thought it would have such an impact on us all as individuals and as a group”  
Student Group Feedback 2019

A Level students - fieldwork summer school applications

Each year there are 16 fully funded places, including the residential course, all materials and travel to and from the venue, available for disadvantaged young geographers who are currently in Year 12. The course will include human and physical fieldwork, first hand data collection and the opportunity to explore techniques and approaches relevant to the A Level independent investigation and Advanced Higher Geography.

This fieldwork summer school is aimed at students who, through challenging circumstances or lack of opportunity, have not been able to benefit from such experiences before. This could be because their school was unable to provide fieldwork, because of family circumstances or due to other pressures they are facing.

Due to the situation with COVID-19 we did not run summer schools in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Details of the summer schools being held in future years will be released in due course.

Aims and outcomes:

As a result of the summer school, students could expect to:

  • Improve their geographical skills, knowledge and understanding, see real-life case studies and try different fieldwork techniques
  • Prepare for and find out more about studying geography at university
  • Build confidence, independence, initiative, teamwork and communication skills
  • Make new friends from all over the UK

Video: The Learning and Leading Summer School 2016. Directed by Nicholas Jessup, Director of Photography Sam Crook, music by Rowan Bishop