The Department prides itself on making the Geography we teach both interesting and relevant to pupils of the 21st century. We aim to develop skills of critical enquiry as well as a firm understanding of concepts through a variety of key questions which run from the F block through to the XX. The opportunity for fieldwork and practical experience is seen as an important part of the learning experience and the Department is committed to providing a varied programme that involves work at home and abroad.
We encourage all pupils to appreciate how actions and decisions made at a local level can have global implications; as a consequence there are frequent lively discussions on themes as varied as the management and conservation of extreme environments to the creation of sustainable communities in modern cities.
OVERVIEW OF COURSE CONTENT AND EXAM SPECIFICATIONS
In the F block, we are very conscious as a department to avoid those elements that have been taught at prep school, but to build on the students varied experiences and teach them to ‘think like a geographer’. To this end, we deliberately focus on those skills that will stand them in good stead for their journey through the department and the Key Stages, as some will eventually go on to study the subject at degree level at a Russell Group university.
At GCSE levels, pupils follow AQA specification A, and they are exposed to a balanced diet of human and physical modules. The topic headings are traditional in name, such as rocks and landscape and changing rural environments, however their content is very much of a contemporary nature and so students will be better informed of the world around them. In addition, a controlled assignment based on their fieldwork experience will add 25% towards their final GCSE grade.
A level pupils study the AQA specification, showing the continuity between the years. They benefit from the teaching of both human and physical geography modules from specialists in their field, and develop a range of skills and experiences that will not only be attractive to future employers, but give them an insight into contemporary issues. The Skills and Issue Evaluation papers allows the students to show off their skills in assimilating resources from a variety of media to come to a reasoned conclusion – surely a hugely beneficial attribute for the world of work later on in life?
THE PLACE OF FIELDWORK
The Department arranges fieldwork across the age range as it plays an integral role in the understanding and enjoyment of the subject - a memorable residential experience away from School will stay with the students for some considerable time. Fieldwork builds up through the years, from a day trip focusing on regeneration in Birmingham city centre for the lower years, to a five-day residential trip to Barcelona at Easter in the Sixth Form. In between, we have the annual GCSE weekend trip to the Peak District where the students are given the chance to appreciate management issues, opportunities for sustainability – and of course the stunning scenery. There are also the occasional optional trips to far-flung places for those who are interested: most recently to the western USA National Parks and Iceland.
The Geography Society has been running for a number of years, and its purpose is to enhance and extend beyond the Department Curriculum. It is normally run by two students in the Upper Sixth (XX) who, with collaboration with the Head of Department, invite, organise venues and advertise visiting guest speakers who come to the school to speak to our geographers. We normally meet twice for the Upper School and once for the Lower School each term, and the programme has been very broad and varied to suit all areas of interest. To give some examples –
Geographers have been treated to:
Wateraid and Children of the Andes, to name but two charity agencies who have endorsed the work that they do to help the disadvantaged and needy
Coral Cay Conservation who spoke about their work & Gap year opportunities
Dan Box has spoken on the first climate change refugees, from the Cateret Islands
Prof. Fiona Tweed has highlighted the hazards and threats that exist on Iceland from volcanic and glacial activity