Choosing new geography specifications


Times are changing in secondary education thanks to government reforms: around the country new AS, A Level and GCSE courses will be being from September 2016. At the time of writing, all GCSE specifications have been accredited. But, only Pearson (Edexcel) has been accredited at AS and A Level, with AQA, OCR and Eduqas on their third submissions to Ofqual.

For those who are yet to decide which specification to follow, the Geographical Association has a wealth of useful information on the changes and guidance about how you might choose specifications and build resources for both GCSE and AS/A Level. Below I have highlighted what I believe to be some fundamental considerations in choosing new specifications – a number of which also appear in the GA guidance.

  • Which specification will suit most of your students best? Which will they enjoy the most?
  • What are your strengths as a department? What interests and specialisms do your geography teachers hold?
  • What type of assessment is there? How will it suit your students? What do you think of the sample assessment material?
  • What is the field work requirement?
  • How well might your chosen AS and A Level courses follow on from your new GCSE?
  • What resources already exist? As well as textbooks, look at Nings, Twitter and other education forums, and pick the brains of colleagues and contacts outside your school
  • What are other schools in your area doing? What scope is there for collaboration?

Once you have made your decision you will want to look afresh at your KS3 curriculum with your colleagues. There may be repetition of topics which can be beneficial but too much duplication may lead to students becoming bored and receiving a rather narrow geographical education.

The delays in accrediting various specifications has been a cause for concern (see Mary Bousted’s article in the TES earlier this month) and will undoubtedly mean that teachers will be under even more pressure to prepare new courses, working to a tight deadline. Support from professional bodies and colleagues is therefore as important as ever.

Have you chosen your specification yet? What are the most important considerations for you?

Rebecca VealsRebecca Veals undertook her PGCE at the Institute of Education, and went on to her first job at Eltham College in London, where she spent four years. She is now Head of Geography at The King’s School, in Gloucester, a position which she has held since 2010.