Geography teaching in decline – Ofsted

The parlous state of geography teaching in many state schools is exposed today in a damning report by inspectors.

More than 100 secondary schools do not enter a single pupil for a GCSE exam in the subject, according to Ofsted, the education standards.

In addition, pupils’ map-reading skills are so poor that even pupils who had done a topic on Kenya could not find the country on a map of Africa.

Figures show 137 secondary schools – up from 97 three years ago – did not enter a single pupil for geography GCSE. Amongst the Government’s flagship academies, 19 – treble the number three years ago – failed to enter a pupil.

The picture is one of decline in primary schools, too. with one in ten having now all but abandoned teaching the subject despite its place as a compulsory national curriculum subject up until the age of 13,

In half the schools surveyed, teachers did not understand enough about geography even to assess their pupils’ work accurately.

“Few teachers provided geography-specific guidance for pupils to be able to understand what they needed to do to improve in the subject,” the report said.

In addition, little or no geography was taught in the final year of primary school ing until youngsters had finished their national curriculum tests in maths and English.

In secondary schools, the inspectors’ verdict was: “Uninspiring teaching and the lack of challenge discouraged many students from choosing geography at GCSE.”

The report added that pupils’ “mental images” of the world “were often confused”.

“They were not able to locate countries, key mountain ranges or other features with any degree of confidence,” the inspectors reported.

The inspectors argue that with more national focus on issues like climate change, population growth and natural disasters such as the Queensland floods, the time is ripe emphasise the importance of geography rather than preside over its decline.

Yet the figures show that take-up of geography at GCSE declined yet again last year by one per cent.

“The quality of provision was declining and the timer allocated to the subject in the first critical years of secondary schools was being reduced,” they added.

The picture that emerged from school visits was a mixture of “outstanding” and “inadequate” provision. The report talks of the “sharp contrast” between different schools.

In the schools with the best provision, pupils were taken on regular fieldwork trips which inspired a love of the subject.

However, just over half the schools surveyed failed to take advantage of fieldwork.

“In approximately, one in 10 of the primary schools visited, geography was more or less disappearing,” it added.

“In approximately half the primary schools visited, pupils in some classes were taught no geography at all.

“Improvements were often being slowed down by primary teachers’ weak knowledge of geography, their lack of confidence in teaching it and insufficient subject-specific training.”

Stressing the importance of the subject, the inspectors repeat an argument used by the devisors of the national curriculum: “The study of geography stimulates an interest in and a sense of wonder about places.

“It helps young people make sense of a complex and dynamically changing world.”

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector said: “Geography provision was outstanding in over a quarter of all the schools we visited but just over half were not using geography to good effect to support pupils in understanding their role in their locality, their country and the wider world.”

Dr Rita Gardner, director of the Royal Geographical Society, added: “All young people should have the opportunity to experience a good quality geography education so they can understand the world’s places, people and environments.”

She said the Coalition Government’s plan to introduce an English baccalaureate in which obtaining an A* to C grade pass in a humanities subject – either history or geography – was a compulsory element should increase take-up of the subject.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Reach Volunteering: Would you like to volunteer your expertise as Chair of Governors for Livability?

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Ashdown Group: Payroll Administrator - Buckinghamshire - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + substantial benefits: Ashdown Group: Finance Admin...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine