Aim: To maintain and improve high levels of attainment at AS and A2.
Background: The Geography department is very successful, with a large cohort of Year 11 pupils often achieving 100% A*-C at GCSE and a large uptake at A Level. However, at A2 students need to develop the ability to ‘think like geographers’ in order to access higher levels.
Year 1: The aim was to identify pedagogy that could foster an ethos of learning through enquiry. The department continued to build on the existing work with co-operative learning structures, particularly using Kagan principles. The department contributed to the whole school INSET day on pedagogy by delivering sessions on independent learning. A debating club was set up outside curriculum time, focusing on issues of geographical importance.
Year 2: A ‘Golden Nugget’ award board was introduced where A Level students were required to contribute news and research items. Many of these ‘stories’ provided a foundation for seminar and discussion groups and structured geographical debate. ‘Geography syndicate learning’ groups were established and groups of Year 12 and 13 students worked together on revision topics. A departmental Twitter account was set up and Year 12 and 13 Geography Facebook groups were organised by the students, which enabled them to continue their syndicate learning beyond the classroom and allowed ex-students to support current A Level students with their UCAS applications and to give guidance on exam preparation. Upton hosted a ‘teach meet’ in order to share good practice with other schools and links with Liverpool University continued. Extra-curricular activities included a visit to Iceland.
Year 3: For the first time Year 13 students were expected to incorporate some aspect of independent work for their Unit 4a fieldwork. A group of Year 9 pupils attended a Chester University sustainable futures event and Year 13 attended a lecture at Chester University on exam technique. For the first time in a number of years a team was entered for a regional Geographical Association quiz at Chester University – and won! Former students gave career talks at school.
Evidence: Student voice, learning walks, student exit questionnaires, exam results.
Impact: Over recent years the number opting for AS Level has risen, from 12 in 2010 to 34 in 2015. The retention rate from AS to A2 also remained high with outstanding A2 results (68% A*-B in 2015) and many students continued their study of Geography at university, including Russell Group universities and even Yale. Links with local universities have improved, although changes in personnel at Liverpool University made this difficult in Year 2. In exit surveys, A2 students identified the uniqueness of their studies in Geography at Upton Hall.
Reflections: The students’ appreciation of their experience of studying Geography, their exam success and the numbers continuing at university are very pleasing. They endorse the value that a focus on independent learning has had on students’ experience and outcomes.
Contact: Andrew Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org