Through studying Geography, pupils will investigate the links between people and their environment, at both the local and international scale. The subject encompasses the natural processes that shape the planet, the cultural diversity of its inhabitants, and the contemporary issues of sustainability and development.
We seek to engage pupils in learning Geography by encouraging them to work and think independently, and by ensuring our teaching is stimulating, varied and creative. In addition, we believe that fieldwork is an essential component of the subject, and pupils have an opportunity to take part in a fieldwork activity in almost every year at Whitgift.
We have several core aims: to help pupils understand the impact that humans have on the environment, and how we can look towards a sustainable future; to promote an understanding of natural hazards and our ability to cope with them; to ensure knowledge is based upon a variety of case studies from around the world, widening students’ cultural points of reference wherever possible; to develop essential study skills of research, analysis and logical argument; to develop skills of statistical analysis of primary and secondary data from a variety of sources; and to provide an opportunity in every year group for individual extended writing.
Geography is a compulsory part of the curriculum until the end of Year 9, but is an optional subject for GCSE, and we are very pleased that approximately two-thirds of pupils have chosen to study it in recent years. The syllabus we follow is AQA 'A'. Additionally, pupils complete a fieldwork project, which is written up under controlled examination conditions. Geography continues to be very popular at A Level, where there are typically over 50 pupils studying at AS and A2. We follow the Edexcel syllabus at AS and at A2. At AS Level, the topics familiar from GCSE are investigated in much greater depth and in different contexts, alongside new topics. Depth and challenge are greater again at A2, where pupils are encouraged to read widely and to think critically about the subject. They currently study six synoptic options, which include Energy Security, Water Conflicts, Biodiversity, Superpower, the Development Gap, and Technological Fix. Pupils can alternatively take the Geography IB. One of the great benefits of Geography IB is flexibility; there are many optional courses that can be studied, from coasts, arid environments, climatic hazards, to settlements and globalisation. One piece of coursework is completed at the end of the first year of study.
Fieldwork forms an integral part of our teaching. All AS Level pupils go on a residential field course to Slapton Ley, Devon. Currently, all Year 6 pupils visit The City of London. In addition, other day trips are organised for GCSE classes, including the Sussex Coast. The Department also runs Easter trips abroad, and, last year, we ran a trip to Iceland and the West Coast of America with Years 9 to 11. Pupils are very active participants in Royal Geographical Society events. We also attend the Royal Holloway lectures, and participate in the Geographical Association schools lecture circuit.
It is not surprising, given the Department’s ethos, that many Whitgiftians go on to pursue their geographical studies at university and beyond. We aim to support and extend all pupils who wish to apply for Geography at university, through a range of specially-arranged activities, including mock interviews, seminars, lectures and study-day visits.