Rebecca Kitchen Secondary Curriculum Leader, Geographical Association, writes about the Geography Quality Mark: making an impact on teaching and learning.

As Head of Geography at Aylesbury High School, I found this incredibly powerful: my geography department improvement plan was informed by the Quality Mark, and vice versa.  It also enabled the whole department to be involved in and take ownership of improvement, which allowed us to move forward more effectively in developing teaching and learning. 

The awarding of Quality Mark raises the profile of the geography department within the school and the local area.  There were discussions with the Senior Leadership Team before, during and after submission, and celebration with staff and students following the award.  The geography department used the Centre of Excellence logo on all of its teaching materials, which gave a strong identity and demonstrated pride in the quality geographical experience that had been created. 

A specific aspect that was developed over the course of the three awards was renewed focus on fieldwork at Key Stage 3.  In 2008, when the school first achieved the award, fieldwork was built into all year groups, moving from a local to a national focus. Year 7 visited Aylesbury town centre to investigate shopping patterns; Year 8 visited Coombe Hill, which is managed by the National Trust; and Year 9 visited the London Docklands, to discover how the area had changed over time. 

By 2011, the focus of these field trips had become more cross-curricular whilst keeping geography at the heart.  For example, at Coombe Hill, workshops were introduced on environmental poetry and species sampling which were run by the school’s English and Biology departments respectively.  The school’s most recent submission, in 2014, developed fieldwork to give the students more independence.  Year 7 were designing their own fieldwork, around the school site; Year 8 students were still engaged in cross-curricular workshops but they were more innovative and included missions from ‘Mission:Explore’ [a set of activities and challenges from the Geography Collective, since renamed as ‘Explorer HQ’].  It was the Year 9 field trip to London Docklands which had developed most, as the girls were given completely free rein to plan their own field trip; a risky scenario but one which was incredibly successful. 

The Secondary Geography Quality Mark has certainly had a massive impact on me as a teacher, head of department – on teaching and learning in school and beyond – then as moderator and co-ordinator at the Geography Association. 

More information is available here.

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This article was first published in NAEE’s 2017  journal, Environmental Education (Vol. 116).  To read more articles like this, you can join the Association and receive three journals a year.