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Don’t panic! Revisiting the ‘revolutionary’ ‘new’ National Curriculum that isn’t the death of geography.

2013-09-29 12.16.15

I wrote a response to the National Curriculum consultation back in February relating to Geography.  Since then the final draft has been released. I wonder how many have read it?  The overwhelming first response when I mention the new curriculum to people is either one of two things. The first is a spot of Gove bashing.  The second is something along the lines of how glaciation is beyond the minds of young people and how dull it is.  Those same people have loved teaching about slums, skyscrapers and volcanoes, all of which all British students have first hand experience of in abundance.  Oh, hang on….  These are just excuses not to get on with the task of subverting the new national curriculum for the good of young people.  Such arguments also devalue the skill and passion of teachers who are, I believe, completely able to teach anything.  I’ve been teaching ox-bow lake formation for 10 years and no student has asked to be excused, or ended up not understanding it despite never actually seeing one.  Are you really saying that it’s not possible to teach something as cool as glaciation……?

Anyway. Here is the Key Stage 3 curriculum during the consultation phase:

2013 KS3

Here it is post consultation:



Don’t forget to link back to the original post to compare it to the last NC.

Now, there are a few things to respond to regarding the deluge of prescribed content that we have to deal with.  Firstly there are around 379 words in the Key Stage 3 curriculum.  Assuming that there are around 39 teaching weeks and you see a KS3 class once a week, as in my last school, that’s around 0.30 words per lesson.  So, there’s plenty of time.  Also, those caught up with this argument forget that the national curriculum forms part of the curriculum.  Can you find direct mention of the geographies of crime, fashion and football in any National Curriculum?

I’m not a Head of Geography any more, but here are a few ideas that I’d probably implement if I were:

1. Assessment – I’m giving a talk at the Teaching and Learning Takeover of Southampton University on Saturday, so will share my thoughts at the weekend.

2. Place Knowledge – this:

‘…understand geographical similarities, differences and links between places through the study of the human and physical geography of a region in Africa and a region in Asia.’

I’d produce a new unit to cover this.  It would suit Year 7 or Year 9 in terms of timing.  Selected case studies and places would be peppered about the whole Key Stage, but an in-depth unit aimed at eliminating the stereotypes of a surface look.  In Year 9, the students would be able to apply their research and critical skills to assess the value of information. 

3. Locational Knowledge – this:

‘….extend their locational knowledge and deepen their spatial awareness of the world’s countries, using maps of the world to focus on Africa, Russia, Asia (including China and India), and the Middle East, focusing on their environmental regions, including polar and hot deserts, key physical and human characteristics, countries and major cities.’

Is anyone really not doing this already? To me, these form part of what being a geographer is: a detailed picture of the world.  It’s a good idea to ensure that case studies are set within a wider context instead of being dropped in a ‘remember it or die’ memorisation exercises.  There is also no need to drop places already in the curriculum.  Nowhere does it say you can’t study certain places. 

4. A school’s curriculum must be published online.

At Priory Geography, all our Schemes of Work and resources are hosted on either Google Docs or Dropbox, so that would be a simple case of flicking the ‘public’ switch.

One of the issues I worry about is who decides this:

‘….develop contextual knowledge of the location of globally significant places’

Such places are listed in the curriculum, but these are huge areas.  The answer may lie in the advice from Subject Associations and the text book publishers.  What is clear is that there is a greater need than ever for local networks of geography departments to work together to share ideas, Schemes of Work and expertise.  Not to mention good coffee, ale and banter.  The Geography Collective will be running a Camp to assist with this and I hope to see many of you there.  Details can be found here.


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