With the recent election, I thought it was time to reflect upon the education changes it could potentially have. For the past five years we have undergone a huge change in education within the UK. The election in May gave the country a chance to make a change, and potentially, stop some of the changes that will be affecting the next generations’ school experience and learning. It was recently announced that all secondary school pupils in England will have to take GCSEs in five core academic subjects, under plans set out by Schools Minister Nick Gibb.
Mr Gibb says he makes “no apology for expecting every child” to have a “high-quality education”.
The Conservative manifesto pledged that all pupils would take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and either history or geography. The Conservatives’ election manifesto said that pupils would have to study GCSEs in the so-called EBacc subjects – English, maths, science, a language and history or geography. And that if schools did not offer them, they would not be eligible for a top Ofsted rating (this would not apply to pupils with special needs).
As a geography teacher I am torn between applauding Nick Gibb for raising geography’s profile as a subject and that we are not offering students a wide broad curriculum for all students. As a teacher of geography, I want students to want to be there, not forced. I do see change as a good thing. Change can bring many benefits to teachers and students alike. But changes to the curriculum do need to be made but not to the deterrent of several subjects and choice for young people.
Bill Watkin, operational director of the school support and training body SSAT, said many heads felt the EBacc was not appropriate for all youngsters and that many head teachers in England will refuse to make all pupils study five traditional GCSE subjects, a director of a prominent education body has said. He said a recent snapshot survey of members had been inundated with school leaders saying they would rather lose their top rating than adopt a one-size-fits-all approach
Those schools that do not have 100% of pupils studying this set of subjects as part of their GCSE courses will not be able to obtain Ofsted’s top rating of “outstanding”. The government said the wraparound qualification had been introduced to ensure pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds were not deterred from studying academic subjects.
But Mr Watkin said: “The risk is that pupils who can’t access some of these subjects will become disaffected and disenfranchised. It may cause some pupils to do less well in their exams.”
In recent years press coverage has put geography under the spotlight. According to Hannah Richardson of the BBC; ‘geography was declining in many of England’s schools as pupils turn away from a subject they find “boring and irrelevant”.
‘Ofsted said that in one in 10 primary schools visited by Ofsted, geography was said to be disappearing. The report also points out shrinking numbers of secondary pupils are taking the subject at GCSE and A-level.
It feels that geography has entered into the fight for its very survival as a curriculum subject.
To me, geography is more important today than ever before in today’s uncertain times. When I was at school I was taught by some inspirational teachers like my old geography teacher Graham Currie. I was transfixed by the awe and wonder of our planet from the amazing landforms of glaciation, the climatic changes on the earth and how people brace themselves against a sometimes cruel world. Geography has always been a fascinating subject.
Every time I look at my phone, iPad or even a newspaper I see current issues that need to be taught and explained in full. Young people need to become global citizens and encouraged to learn about their local area, their county, their country and about the world. Geography has for some time been losing its position of importance. In KS3, 4 and 5 elements of geography are taught in other subject areas especially science.
As learners we need to love geography and appreciate its right in education. Geography deserves its place on the curriculum as it is a subject of the 21st Century.
I ask is that our Ministers and Education Authorities stop and think. They must speak to the teachers in Primary, Middle and Secondary Schools. They have to find out how these changes will impact on a child’s learning. I openly invite Nicky Morgan or Nick Gibb to visit and listen to my views.
As teachers we do have the resources, we do have the expertise, we do have the knowledge, and we can change education for the better for the future. But without the right backing I sadly see a curriculum lacking in vision and failing to provide the future generation the right knowledge to tackle it.