New draft Geography curriculum for KS1-3

I left the country for a few days over the weekend and Michael Gove announced the new draft programmes of study for KS1-3 in all subjects as I was heading for my flight from Gatwick...
The documents can be downloaded from the DfE website using this link. (PDF download)

If you're going to be teaching this for the next period of your career, you might want to take a look, and see if you agree with it all, or more usefully how you might teach what is there should it go through the consultation essentially unchanged. Remember that teachers are the curriculum makers....
See the Geographical Association for more detail.

I haven't had a good look at the KS1 and 2 curriculum yet, although I'm sure that my colleague Paula Owens will have. Some annotations are in red.


Purpose of Study
Replaced the previous importance statement

A high-quality geography education should inspire in pupils a curiosity and fascination about the world and its people that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. 

Seems fine to me... That’s what I would hope for...
How do you define ‘high quality’ ?
What does a poor quality geography education do to pupils ? 
In schools where there are teachers with other specialisms teaching geography, are they always confident that they know what this means, or how to achieve it ? How is good practice shared ?

Teaching should equip pupils with knowledge about diverse places, people, resources and environments, together with a deep understanding of the Earth’s key physical and human processes. As pupils progress, their growing knowledge about the world helps them to deepen their understanding of the interaction between physical and human processes, and of the formation of landscapes and environments. 

Fine once again... Equipping with knowledge is easily done: pass them a smartphone...
The word progress is there, and this needs a little investigation too.

Geographical knowledge provides the tools and approaches that explain how the Earth’s features at different scales are shaped, interconnected and change over time.


The National Curriculum for geography aims to ensure that all pupils:
- develop knowledge of the location of places of global significance, their defining physical and human characteristics and how they relate to one another; this place knowledge should provide a sound context for understanding geographical processes

What determines a place of global significance ?
World cities ?
World heritage sites ?

-  understand the processes that give rise to key physical and human geographical features of the world, how these are interdependent and how they bring about spatial variation and change over time 
- are competent in the geographical skills needed to: 
a) collect, analyse and communicate with a range of data gathered through experiences of fieldwork that deepen their understanding of geographical processes

Good to see fieldwork mentioned - hopefully there will be some statutory requirement for fieldwork at KS3 with some guidance perhaps - this is where the FSC and similar organisations are probably geared and ready for the new document - also connects nicely with the book that John Widdowson and I have written for the GA

b) interpret a range of sources of geographical information, including maps, globes, aerial photographs and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) 
c) communicate geographical information in a variety of ways, including through maps and writing at length.

Good to see that GIS is mentioned here, and there is a more explicit mention later on too. Interesting also to see writing at length... this should be an opportunity for creative writing work and extended projects exploring local issues, or perhaps where the students have more opportunity to choose the focus for their studies...
GIS has been mentioned in documents before and still not been fully embedded in most schools. Previously the technology was a barrier, but some of the new tools are easier to use than before and being cloud-based they need no complicated installation.

Key Stage 3

Pupils should consolidate and extend their knowledge of the world’s major countries and their physical and human features. They should understand how geographical processes interact to create distinctive human and physical landscapes that change over time. 

Which are the world’s major countries ?

In doing so, they should become aware of increasingly complex geographical systems in the world around them. They should develop greater competence in using geographical tools and skills, including analysing and interpreting different data sources, and so continue to enrich their locational knowledge and spatial awareness. 

Which systems are becoming increasingly complex, and how is that manifested ?
Good to see the link to spatial awareness. This could involve more local fieldwork as well as further work on global geography.

Pupils should be taught to:

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

For some this may be one of the more ‘controversial’ sections of the document. This could come from the use of the word region, which brings back thoughts of regional geography. I remember at the start of my teaching career that I taught about regional geography: a term on ‘Benelux and Denmark’ and one on ‘The United States’.
So what do we think about the choices ?
I like the idea of the polar deserts coming back again - can hopefully re-use my OCR Pilot materials from Svalbard.
I will also have to think about ideas for the Middle East and Russia...

One notable absence is a mention of the EU....

- understand geographical similarities and differences through the study of human and physical geography of a region or area within Africa and a region or area within Asia

OK, so which do you choose ? - ‘a region within Africa’ - could be the rift valley with its tectonic activity, tourism and ecosystems, and for Asia ??

- understand, through the use of detailed place-based exemplars at a variety of scales, the key processes in:
- physical geography relating to: glaciation, plate tectonics, rocks, soils, weathering, geological timescales, weather and climate, rivers and coasts

Geological timescales come in here... interesting connections with some of the key UK landscapes perhaps - if you’ve got an iPad with plenty of room on it, head over to the App store and install ‘Earth Viewer’ for this

There's no real mention of climate change here, although that can be included and connected with lots of other areas for example...

- human geography relating to: population, international development, economic activity in the primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary sectors, urbanisation, and the use of natural resources
- understand how human and physical processes interact to have an impact on and form distinctive landscapes

Looking forward to this one... plenty of landscapes....

- build on their knowledge of globes, maps and atlases and use these geographical tools routinely in the classroom and in the field

Good for globe sellers... I had a few in my department, but there may be a lot that don’t...

- interpret Ordnance Survey maps in the classroom and the field, including using six-figure coordinates and scale, topographical and other thematic mapping, and aerial and satellite photographs 

Good to see that Ordnance Survey maps remain in there with an explicit mention - any geographer worth their salt should have a good selection of these, and any department needs them too... of course the maps can be digital these days... I know of a few opportunities there of course.... six figure co-ordinates are mentioned. Will we still need sat navs ?

- use Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to view, analyse and interpret places and data

GIS, as mentioned before is important...

- use fieldwork to collect, analyse and draw conclusions from geographical data, using multiple sources of increasingly complex information.

So, there we have it.
A few initial thoughts on the new curriculum document, which was published last week.
A bit lightweight in its analysis perhaps, but then that’s me. I would (and will) focus on exploring interesting new contexts that grow from this document, and remember that there are still no certainties about the document and what will make it through to the final version. The GA are still involved in the consultation, and there is also a chance for you to have your say.

A key thing to remember, as always, is that the document is just a piece of paper (or a PDF) and that the real curriculum is what happens when students and teachers interact with the subject discipline. It's partly my 'job' at the moment to help with that process. Teachers are the curriculum makers.

If you want a bit more on this, check out David Rogers' thoughts as a contrast / counterpoint....

Also been interested in discussions between Simon Renshaw and Phil Wood, which focus on some of the concepts that can be linked together...