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Have you got your bearings on your geography curriculum?


Primary school children getting their geographic bearings with a map

Ofsted published its report “Getting our Bearings: Geography Subject Report” in September 2023. It evaluated the state of geography in our schools, summarising evidence gathered from visiting 50 primary and secondary schools. We’d wholeheartedly recommend all geography leaders to read the report in full, but below is a partial outline.


On a positive note, Ofsted suggest that overall the state of geography within the education system is showing signs of improvement. They applaud the benefits of using distinct geography lessons, which we always endorse because, “...children need to know when they are doing geography.”


On a less positive note, the report disclosed that:


  • many primary schools find it difficult to provide a good geography programme, and

  • most primary teachers do not have a background in geography, which makes teaching the subject, which encompasses both the natural sciences (physical geography) and the social sciences (human geography) tricky.

In addition to the above, specific areas for improvement included:-


Lesson Content

The selection of places to investigate often failed to include a region from Europe and a region from the UK, both required by the National Curriculum.


When regions were taught, it often happened that the concept of a region was not fully grasped and children were instead taught about countries or even whole continents.


Often the teaching of regions only provided a ‘single story’ and sweeping generalisations. which was not helpful in developing a rounded sense of place.


Progression

In some primary schools, the geography curriculum lacked coherence. Leaders had not provided a sequenced and progressive geography programme.


Often children were taught aspects of geography in isolation and learning did not progress from one topic to another.


Lesson Structure

Often teachers used enquiry questions to structure geography lessons. When done properly, this was very successful but too often, it was not done well and therefore children’s geographical learning was incomplete.


Fieldwork

An example of a fieldwork trip

Teachers were not confident in developing a skills-focused programme of fieldwork. There was confusion between fieldwork (the rigorous collection, measurement and recording of field data to develop an understanding of an area being investigated) and a field trip (a day out).


A progression in field and mapping skills was often not present. The fieldwork was seen as something that had to be done “... rather than as an opportunity to teach a body of procedural knowledge or to teach pupils how geographers approach their work”.

Recognise some of these issues? Still finding your bearings with the geography curriculum?

If some of the issues outlined above resonate with you, B&C Educational could help. Our team are passionate geographers with a background in teaching. And since 2020, we’ve supported many primary schools in developing their geographical skills and knowledge to design well-sequenced and progressive geography curricula in line with the Geography National Curriculum.


Whether you’re looking for advice, a curriculum review, ready-made content about a region from the UK/Europe or fieldwork or something more bespoke, we’d be happy to help.


Simply contact us via email (b-cltd@hotmail.co.uk) or phone (079663 79621).

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