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Knight: 'seismic shift' to make geography sustainable

Knight: 'seismic shift' to make geography sustainable

DEPARTMENT FOR CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES News Release (2008/0061) issued by The Government News Network on 27 March 2008

- Action Plan For Geography To Be Extended By Three Years -

A package of measures designed to revitalise geography in schools and sit alongside the new more flexible curriculum was announced by Schools Minister Jim Knight today, in a bid to reverse the declining numbers studying the subject.

Teachers will be provided with interactive resources to bring to life 'hard to teach' topics like fieldwork, and subjects such as climate change, diversity and social cohesion.

Knight said he would extend the Action Plan for Geography, with £1.8 million investment over the next three years and announced that the Royal Geographical Society and the Geographical Association had won the contract to deliver the next phase of the Plan.

Knight paid tribute to the excellent work already achieved by the Royal Geographical Society and the Geographical Association in the first phase of the Action Plan, which has already had a significant impact on geography teaching in schools. The second phase of the plan will embed and develop successes so far.

Other major strands of the second phase of the Action Plan will include:

* Continued development and enhancement of the Geography Teaching Today website through targeted new resources, tutorials and CPD modules;

* Local networks of support for primary and secondary teachers will be developed in areas with no existing networking opportunities;

* Expansion of the Geography Ambassadors programme to cover the whole country by 2011. This means graduate and professional geographers working with schools to demonstrate to pupils the importance and relevance of geography beyond the classroom. So far, Ambassadors' presentations have reached 17,500 pupils in four regions;

* Target teachers and schools not yet engaged with the Action Plan to encourage them to participate in the Action Plan and to join local networks. User guides for teachers not previously engaged will be included on the Geography Teaching Today website;

* Continued development and expansion of the two professional recognition schemes - Chartered Geographer Teacher status and the Geography Quality Mark. The schemes provide robust and nationally available opportunities to support departments, schools and teachers in their professional development, and to recognise good practice.

The new Key Stage 3 geography curriculum will start from September 2008. It will offer teachers greater freedom to teach topical, contemporary and relevant issues like climate change and globalisation to engage pupils and encourage them to continue studying geography at GCSE and beyond.

Teachers will have more flexibility to teach topical issues relevant to young people's lives and to make links with other curriculum subjects. Pupils will continue to learn about the location of places and environments and will still be taught to use atlases, globes and maps to help them develop their geographical skills.

The Action Plan for Geography has developed resources to support the new curriculum, including support for teachers to make use of the new flexibilities, and support for non specialist subject teachers. This support will continue and develop over the second phase of the Action Plan.

Jim Knight said:

"Geography is a passion of mine, which is why I want to see a seismic shift to reverse the declining numbers studying the subject.

"There are many excellent geography teachers out there, we are now giving them the resources and flexibility in the curriculum to generate interest and enthusiasm for the subject.

"Geography is absolutely crucial to all our futures - from global issues like climate change to local issues like planning - geography is at the core."

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Jim Knight was speaking at the Geographical Association Conference at the University of Surrey, Guildford.

2. The Action Plan for Geography (APG) was launched by Lord Adonis in March 2006 to enhance the teaching and learning of geography in primary and secondary schools. Supported by £2m over two years, the overarching goal of the Action Plan was to show the potential and relevance of geography to life in the 21st century, to support teachers to realise this potential and to engage pupils with geography in an enjoyable way, encouraging them to continue studying geography at GCSE level and beyond.

3. The funding will decrease over the next three years and the main strands of the Action Plan will become sustainable from 2011.

4. The first phase of the Action Plan has been carried out jointly by the Geographical Association and the Royal Geographical Society and has already had a significant impact on geography teaching in schools.

5. Action Plan achievements to date:

* Over 1000 schools actively engaged with the Action Plan.

* Developed the Geography Teaching Today website - a central point of access for all resources to support geography teaching and professional development. The GTT website has an average of 5,000 individual visits a week - more than twice its target level.

* Set up an Ambassadors programme to excite and enthuse young people about the relevance and importance of geography. Graduate and professional geographers work with schools to demonstrate to pupils the importance and relevance of geography beyond the classroom. So far, Ambassadors' presentations have reached 17,500 pupils (500 ambassadors working with 500 schools).

* Created new and exciting resources to support Key Stage 3 teachers to make lessons more interesting and relevant for pupils. Nine new modules have been developed covering relevant issues like globalisation, tourism, sustainability and the 2012 Olympics.

* Provided additional support for non specialist teachers including a dedicated area on the GTT website and online tutorials to help them make lessons more interesting and relevant for pupils.

* Developed a virtual fieldwork and local learning centre to help teachers make the most of geography in their local areas. This includes expert advice and planning on embedding fieldwork in the curriculum. The online resource has been supported by free training for 300 teachers.

* Provided high quality training for primary and secondary teachers of geography, responding to the need for teachers to be more confident in developing and planning the curriculum.

* Involved leading geography teachers in the development of CPD programmes and resources, so their expertise can be shared more widely.

* Recognised the achievements of schools in delivering excellent geography through Primary and Secondary Quality Marks. 188 primary and secondary schools have been awarded Geography Quality Marks and a further 86 have registered for the scheme.

* Recognised the professional achievements of Geography teachers through a new professional accreditation - Chartered Geography Teacher. The scheme is available to all teachers to recognise and encourage ongoing professional development. Almost 100 teachers have been accredited as Chartered Geographer Teachers.

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