Not long back from the 2014 Annual Conference of the Geographical Association in Guildford. It was, as always, a top event and I enjoyed being there after a two year self-imposed GA exile of sorts (although that’s probably a little bit too grand for being too busy). This is the first post of a few based on the conference. This one provides the resources and background for the lecture I gave on the Tuesday.
Firstly, it was bloody scary when conference organiser, Lucy Oxley, informed me that I’d be in the main lecture theatre that saw Professor Iain Stewart speak to the Conference the day before and following the Presidential Keynote. Still, I think I managed to keep it together, especially as I decided to change some of the emphasis that morning after listening to Iain’s talk.
I’ve written before about the latest curriculum reforms:
- Not the death of geography
- I’m a teacher, not a Gove basher
- Is your curriculum full of JONK?
- A curriculum isn’t creative, teachers are
- GCSE reform
If I were to sum up my argument, it would be that teachers need to be professional and take control. I find that departments that have very little vision or idea of what they want to achieve are often slaves to changes as they have no filter with which to assess changes. I would also say that we shouldn’t be waiting to be told to change, but be continually updating, refreshing and revisiting both what we teach and how we teach. I know that there are barriers, some content has been left out. What really hit me was that very few in the audience had taken part in the consultations or engaged with the subject associations.
Also, let’s get away from the ‘but it’s geography obviously’ mentality because, outside of our subject, it’s not obvious. Like my son in the image above, interests of individuals aren’t always focused on the stand out geography and that’s OK. I was interested to hear Dr Vanessa Lawrence, until recently heading up the Ordnance Survey, say that the reason that geography isn’t mentioned all of the time because it’s now mainstream. Don’t believe it? Think about the activities that young people and the general public take part in every day that is based upon the OS Master Map data. anything with a map. Sat Nav. Billing. Insurance.
Geographers have to signpost the significant contributions to Maths and Literacy that the subject has. It is this that will secure curriculum time. I wonder how any of those that bemoan the emphasis on maths in the GCSE subject content have actually read the document? The manipulation of data (of all types) and geospatial data is an essential element of geography. Plus, there’s nothing scary there. I recoil when I read comments that mention ‘playing down the maths element.’ To me, the current curriculum reform hammers home the importance of geography. SLT members quite rightly know little detail about the changes – that’s the role of middle leaders.
The basic opportunities that I see for geography are as follows, please bear in mind that I advocate a pro-active, get-in-the-face, make geography a leading subject stance:
- It’s brilliant that teachers are expected to learn new things. Do we really want to be teaching the same stuff forever? Geography is a dynamic subject? Sometimes, the biggest barrier that comes across from teachers is that they are unwilling to learn new things. Yes, time is an issue, but the KS1-3 orders have been around since September. If you haven’t done anything by now then……
- Progress and Attainment 8 will add pressure onto geography departments but, as mentioned above, it makes the subject vital to a school’s success. Make sure that SLT know about this.
- Geography becomes an important vehicle for the delivery of Maths and Literacy. Geo-spatial data from the OS underpins around £100 billion of our economy. Geography graduates enjoy the highest rates of employment. China has a five year plan that identifies geo-spatial data and control as the most important factor in them becoming a leading country. Data is important.
- There isn’t anything to tell us what we can’t teach. Who says we can’t cover plate tectonics?
- Working with our primary colleagues – we are going to need to do this in order to support each other. Make sure you read the whole curriculum and not just what directly affects you.
Anyway, I’m happy if you agree or disagree with me. There are barriers, as always. It’s our job to smash through them and unlock the potential.