Geography at St Augustine’s Priory centres on the idea that, although the physical environment may determine which activities people may engage in at a particular location, human activity has an impact on the physical environment.
In the early years the emphasis is on exploration of the United Kingdom and the pupils’ local area. Key skills include the identification of locations and characteristics of specific places, understanding geographical similarities and differences through studying the human and physical geography of Ealing and London. Students will also begin to understand the fundamental skills of map work by conducting primary fieldwork around our school site and further afield. The students use characters such as Barnaby Bear and Katie Morag to explore exotic places around the world.
The aim of Geography at this stage is to develop the students’ enquiry skills, and to begin to extend their understanding of places beyond the local area to include other parts of the United Kingdom, Europe and North and South America. They begin to develop their geographical knowledge, understanding and skills to enhance their locational and place knowledge using maps and Geographical Information Systems. Topics cover a range of physical phenomena including earthquakes, volcanoes, coasts and rivers, and there is an emphasis on the importance of human interactions within our world including issues such as sustainability, deforestation, overpopulation and tourism.
Fieldwork opportunities within the Preps and Juniors:
Fieldwork supports the Geography curriculum by promoting geographical knowledge and understanding. We believe that students learn best about the world by experiencing it. There are several opportunities for field trips including the fieldwork carried out at the River Chess near Amersham, Barnaby Bear exploration workshops, local area fieldtrips to Ealing and our school site, the school farm and many more. We encourage travel and exploration and for the students to share photographs, postcards and stories from countries they have visited throughout their time at St Augustine’s Priory.
Form III to Upper IV (Key Stage 3)
Students continue to develop their understanding of the UK in comparison to contrasting locations through the world. There is a particular emphasis on the physical world and students explore the nature of rivers, coasts, climate and tectonic features. Inseparable from this is the impact that human beings have on the natural world and themes like population growth, urbanisation, migration and tourism form part of the programme of study.
Environmental concerns covered include issues to do with water, food, energy, waste, climate change and threats to biodiversity.
As Geography is fundamentally about places, studying case studies is also on the agenda at Key Stage 3 with examples taken from the EU and parts of the world at very different levels of development.
At Key Stage 3 we have increased the emphasis on UK case studies and examples to match the demands put on the students at GCSE, as the new specifications require more knowledge of the physical and human geography of the UK. These changes have been made possible by fieldwork exploring urban regeneration and coastal processes.
Lower V to Upper V (Key Stage 4)
All specifications for GCSE Geography changed in 2016. We chose GCSE Geography Edexcel B because it is the most engaging course as it is based on global and UK issues. The human topics range from problems facing UK cities to a study of Mumbai as a megacity in an emerging country. The physical topics range from coastal management in the UK to the increase in hurricanes and tropical storms in relation to climate change. This course also provides us with many fieldwork opportunities in the UK.
2018 saw our first set of results in this new GCSE course and we are pleased to say that the students were very successful with the majority of students receiving levels 7 to 9 and every student either meeting or exceeding their targets.
Although Fieldwork Controlled Assessments are no longer part of GCSE Geography, the students attended a physical geography fieldtrip to Brighton and Rottingdean in order to study coastal management and a human geography fieldtrip to Goring and Streatley on the Oxfordshire/Berkshire border in order to study rural change. The students performed very well in exam questions relating to their own fieldwork. This year, Upper V students are basing their fieldwork on the river processes operating on the Cuckmere River in East Sussex and the impact of post-olympic urban regeneration on Stratford, London.
Lower VI to Upper VI (Key Stage 5)
Geography at A Level also changed in September 2016 to include greater emphasis on the UK and the return of coursework, in the form of an independent investigation which is based on a UK field trip. The new A-Level covers a range of interesting themes including tectonic hazards and their management, coastal landscapes, climate change, water conflicts, globalisation, superpowers, migration, urban regeneration and rural rebranding. We are following the Edexcel linear specification which involves 3 exams at the end of the Upper VI year and one field work write up worth 20% of the A-Level at the end of Lower VI.
Again, 2018 saw our first set of results in this new A level with every student achieving at least one whole grade higher than their target. This is particularly impressive when considering the complexity of the new synoptic paper, which requires students to make links between many of the physical and human themes explored over the two years. Even more impressive were the results of our students’ independent investigations based on their findings from fieldwork we carried out along the Cambrian Coast as part of our residential field trip to Aberystwyth in the July of the LVI year. The moderator examiner described this fieldwork as “exceptional” in his report. Recently we have also added an extra fieldwork day to study the rebranding of the Kings Cross St Pancras area.
The Geography Department contributes greatly to enrichment and the co-curricular provision of the school including the Eco-Schools Club and a variety of fieldwork opportunities.
The Eco-Schools Club takes responsibility for all of the recycling, reusing of materials and efforts to reduce wastage at St Augustine’s Priory. It successfully coordinates a ‘No Paper’ day, a ‘No Electricity’ day and a ‘Walk to School’ week each year. This year we are joining the WWF campaign to tackle the issue of plastic pollution.
Another way in which Geography contributes to enrichment and co-curricular provision is via field trips. There are many UK based field trips such as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (Stratford), the River Chess, Brighton, Cuckmere Haven and Aberystwyth and in December 2017, of course, the KS4 and KS5 field trip to New York which did not fail to inspire young minds at St Augustine’s Priory. We run these Geography fieldtrips abroad every two years and in 2019 we are looking forward to returning to Iceland.