Ofsted publishes research review on geography

17 Jun 2021 06:42 PM

Ofsted has published the fifth in a series of reviews into different subjects across the curriculum. The latest review looks at geography education. It draws on our education inspection framework (EIF) and other literature to identify what contributes to a high-quality geography curriculum, as well as high-quality assessment, pedagogy and systems in schools.

Read the geography research review.

The review discusses the context of geography teaching and uptake in English schools. The subject has had a relatively low status in primary schools and over time there has been a gradual decline in the amount of time spent studying geography in the classroom. This contrasts with secondary schools, where the number of pupils entering geography exams has increased significantly in the past decade, according to the review. Now, almost half of key stage 4 pupils study the subject.

Like other subjects, the review notes that knowledge in geography can be organised into two forms – ‘substantive’ and ‘disciplinary’.

Disciplinary knowledge is used when pupils consider where geographical knowledge originates, and how they can learn the practices of geographers. Substantive knowledge sets out the content that pupils will learn. In geography, this has followed the split seen in the national curriculum:

A successful geography curriculum reflects teachers’ careful thinking and rationale behind what is taught, the sequencing of learning and the relationships between the forms of knowledge.

While Ofsted recognises that there is no single way of achieving a good geography education, the report identifies some common features of a high-quality curriculum. For example:

In 2022, Ofsted will be publishing a report on the quality of geography curriculums taught in schools. We will gather the evidence for this through subject ‘deep dives’ during inspections under the EIF.

To find out more about Ofsted’s curriculum work, read the principles behind the research reviews and subject reports.

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