Things to consider when designing your primary geography curriculum, following the Ofsted Research Review

Reflections on the Geography Ofsted Research Review and Blog

Reconsidering your curriculum

A process of curriculum review is usual at this time of the year; what has gone well and what are your next steps? To ensure pupils get access to the breadth of the curriculum in geography and in the light of the Ofsted Research Review and recent Blog, this will be more important than ever. What can you do that will make an impact?

Planning post-pandemic

Having educated through the pandemic, for some of you this might mean that you have simply kept your heads above water and the development of your curriculum may have been largely static. Alternatively, you might have found new ways to work and these might have caused you to look again at the scope and sequencing of your curriculum and you might know that there are gaps in your provision. How can you fill these if they have appeared?

You may have taken the opportunity to capitalise on the relative safety of working outdoors to enhance your fieldwork opportunities, and might even have been able to go beyond your school grounds. All in all, you may now wish to take stock and revisit, review and revise your National Curriculum coverage. Here are three areas you might consider.


Covering the curriculum

Do you have curriculum overviews that justify your interpretation of the National Curriculum (N.C)? These are not compulsory, but the N.C is a tricky document to plan from and to support your own organisation, they can be vital to show an overview. They should, when working well, give you the reassurance that you are providing coverage, depth and progression for your pupils. You might use a Progression framework like the free one here from Rising Stars or might have designed your own. Some schools have separate ones to show progression for the different aspects they see as important such as fieldwork or local area studies, distant place case studies, mapwork/skills or the development of enquiry questions. Some will also show cross curricular opportunities and allow you to make meaningful connections.

The challenge so often is the interaction between geography curriculum planning and wider school-wide drivers; this might be use of high-quality texts or particular awards the school is aiming for (Eco Schools, Rights Respecting Award etc). All can contribute to curriculum confusion and, sometimes, overload. As Ofsted suggest: “content is vast and poses one of the challenges to a school’s geography curriculum: the balance [is] between breadth of coverage and depth of study.” (Ofsted, 2021) The job of a subject lead is never an easy one!

Be especially careful with any “drivers” which move you away from the core purpose of geography as outlined in the Aims and Purpose of Study. Ofsted have said recently thematic approaches need to be “carefully planned to ensure that pupils can make progress…[and] goals retain subject specificity;… [so] teachers are aware of the disciplinary nature of the subject…Staff who plan…have a secure appreciation of how geography relates to other subjects...”

Such relationships can often be with time and place (history) or landscapes (science, eg. biomes/ habitats). Often, in my experience, the least successful ones are if history dominates, especially with a world-historical example. An example being Indus valley or, especially, Ancient Egypt topics. Here the knowledge of modern-day Egypt and the eleven countries the Nile flows through just can’t compete with thousands of years of fascinating history! The geography is hard to research, there may be few resources and it may well end up confusing rather than reinforcing shared concepts between the subjects.


Anthony Barlow is the author of Rising Stars Geography, KS1.


Geography', Geography, History and Geography

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