Geography teaching has improved significantly

Ofsted has published a report looking at how geography is being taught in England’s schools, which draws on evidence from visits to a sample of primary and secondary schools.

Inspectors have found that there have been significant improvements in geography education since the subject report published 12 years ago. This is particularly true at primary level and key stage 3. In almost all the schools visited, leaders had made changes to the curriculum to ensure that knowledge was better sequenced, so children could build on what they had learnt.

However, this review found that children’s opportunities to learn and develop their fieldwork skills are still lacking at both primary and secondary level. This extends beyond the challenges that were presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. In primary schools, fieldwork is often conflated with field trips. Pupils may go out of school on a visit, but they are rarely learning how to collect, present and analyse geographical fieldwork when they do so. In secondary schools, pupils rarely do fieldwork beyond the requirements of the exam boards. Most schools simplify this fieldwork so that pupils can give prepared answers in the exam, leaving pupils ill equipped for the non-examined assessment at A-Level and higher education.

The report also identifies the need for better support for non-specialist teachers and more subject-specific CPD for both specialist and non-specialist teachers.

The report makes a number of recommendations for improving geography education, including making sure that the curriculum supports effective transition between key stages so that content builds cumulatively and is not repeated, and giving the same level of thought to the curriculum at key stages 4 and 5 as is given at other key stages.

It also recommends that they teach pupils about fieldwork as they should know how to collect, present and analyse data.

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