Geography Revolution

The primary target for improvement this year revolves around teaching & learning within Geography. We are proud of Geography’s achievements over the years at Gillingham School but we do not want to be complacent. We must focus on our own teaching and how the students learn. As a Department we want to teach the best we can and we are looking at Key Stage 3 lessons seeing where we can make improvements and implementing new teaching strategies. We must make the teaching experience more personal for the students and improve their independent study skills. This is being developed from KS3 onwards and carried on into KS4 and KS5.

The curriculum map we have designed, seen below, is set in a specific way. Most importantly it allows students to follow a natural progression building up skills and using them in a number of different ways. The progression also leads through to Key Stage 5. We are aiming to promote progression in a number of ways;

  • Depth of knowledge
  • Breadth of study
  • Complexity of concepts
  • Independent learning and research
  • An increase in spatial scale

Progression is mainly achieved through deeper understanding and increasing complexity of tasks.  There is also a broadening of the breadth of study.  More explicitly we are looking at increasing spatial scale, increasing awareness of society, economy and the environment. Work is currently being undertaken to ensure that there is smooth progression from KS2 to KS3 and also from KS4 to KS 5.




  • Rainforest
  • Map work
  • Hazards 1 – volcanoes & earthquakes
  • Crime
  • Olympics
  • Tribes & Cultures
  • Population
  • Geographical research
  • Deserts
  • Shanty towns
  • Rivers
  • Feeding the world
  • Hazards 2 – extreme weather
  • Energy
  • Ice Age
  • Geographical research
  • Hazards 3 – tsunami
  • Why is Africa disconnected?
  • Climate change
  • Chindia
  • Coral reefs
  • Waste
  • Coasts
  • Geographical research
  • Stourhead
  • School based fieldwork
  • Disaster Management Day
  • Brecon Beacons


With the new curriculum at Key Stage 4 and 5, Key Stage 3 is a priority this year. We must not forget that KS3 is the building blocks of a successful education. Key Stage 3 can be sometimes be forgotten about in this world of examinations at KS4 and 5. The young students at KS3 need the skills and knowledge to help them in their later geography education. We are currently devising eight topics containing eight lessons for each year group. This would enable free time for us to look at world events that take place i.e. Geography Awareness Week, Fairtrade Fortnight, Japanese earthquake etc. This new format and the topics decided upon can be seen in the table above.

We are entering a very exciting time at Gillingham School where we are creating an innovative and inspirational curriculum for our students. I will keep you all posted how our plans, successes and failures go as the year goes on. My department has been working really hard on these lessons and I am 100% happy with what has been planned so far – well done team, you have been brilliant!

Curriculum Changes

With an ever changing world, it is time for our geography curriculum to change. Since joining Gillingham School in September 2009, we have rewritten the GCSE course and made amendments to our A’Level course. Now that they are finally written, we have turned our attention to Key Stage 3.

Key Stage 3 is the building block of geography in every secondary school. It is where some students are only just learning the subject for the first time and building upon the foundations of their learning at KS2. We are turning KS3 upside down on its head at Gillingham School and shaking it for the first time in several years. We already have a very large uptake at GCSE and the students enjoy their lessons. We feel that it is time for a change, to gain the skills and knowledge required at KS4 and beyond, a new layout must be put in place.

Currently we teach five/six topics across each year. With students being more interactive and demand for knowledge, we have decided to go for a format of eight separate topics of eight lessons each. We currently teach four lessons over a two week timetable. This means topics will interchange at a fast rate, we won’t get bogged down in one topic and it keeps it exciting for students.

It also means we can dip out of the curriculum when we need to – eight topics x four weeks = 32 weeks out of 39 teaching weeks. When there are world events like the current crisis in Japan we can take time out to look at them and improve the students’ knowledge.

The only problem is, what topics do we teach?

This week we have been looking at our current topics and deciding on what we each would like individually to teach if we had a clean slate. Our next meeting together we will be looking at all our choices and formulating a new curriculum – exciting times! The themes have ranged from traditional geography like settlement and population to new ideas like tribes, cultures and why Africa is disconnected?

The new system will also allow us to look at events such Fairtrade Fortnight, World Aids Day, Geography Awareness Week without the worry of time. I will keep you all up to date with our progress and choices. All suggestions greatly received.

Grappling with Geography

Recent press coverage has put geography, my subject, under the spotlight. According to Hannah Richardson of the BBC; ‘geography is declining in many of England’s schools as pupils turn away from a subject they find “boring and irrelevant”, Ofsted Inspectors have said in their report “Learning to make a world of difference’’.

‘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. The number of students taking geography GCSE fell from 173,800 in 2008-9 to 169,800 in 2009-10, official figures show. The report found the number of state secondaries schools not entering pupils for the subject has been rising steadily, increasing from 97 in 2007 to 137 in 2009. However, this is a tiny minority in the context of more than 3,000 secondary schools across England.’

It is apparent that geography has entered into the fight for its very survival as a curriculum subject. As a Head of Geography in Dorset, I am extremely passionate about a subject that has always been close to my heart.

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; how people brace themselves against a sometimes cruel world…Geography has always been a fascinating subject.

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 sometime been losing its position of importance. In KS3, 4 and 5 elements of geography are taught in other subject areas especially science.  With science as a core subject where is geography’s place? We need to define geography as a subject in its own right. The importance of geography needs to be made clear by the Department of Education. We need to reclaim our topics and rebrand ourselves as a twenty-first century subject.

With an ever-changing world geography must be at the forefront of educational thought. Being versatile, experimental, and very much of today it should be leading the future of education. As a teacher I have worked in several forward thinking schools where opportunities to attempt new ideas were welcomed. I am very lucky in this respect. I have been fortunate to have witnessed great teaching in my eight years as a teacher.

According to David Lambert, chief executive of the Geographical Association, ‘geography is not just important on its own account. It is a linking discipline, connecting to science, to the arts, to history and languages. In primary schools where geography in strong, the subject can help to knit the curriculum together as well as satisfy pupils’ curiosity about people and places. In senior schools, geography offers the opportunity to develop a broader and very contemporary skill-set. It also helps many students to keep their options open, rather than having to narrow their courses down to either the sciences or the arts. Geography straddles both, using diverse sources and data, and asking challenging and engaging questions about the change pupils can see in the world around them.’

‘Given the vast ambition of the topic, it is easy to see how it can be badly taught. But it would be a betrayal of young people to give up on what geography can contribute to their education, just because it is hard to teach well.’

Last year I wrote an article for Sec-Ed. Sec-Ed is the UK’s only free national teaching paper that is sent to every UK Headteacher and staffroom. The article is titled  ‘Where now for geography?’, it focuses on geography’s fight for survival as a curriculum taught subject. The article can be accessed here for your perusal.

Geography deserves its place on the curriculum and it is the subject of the 21st Century.

Tricks of the trade

Today I have an article printed in Sec-Ed. Sec-Ed is the UK’s only free national education paper that is sent to every school every week. I am a massive fan of this paper and love to read the stories and articles that appear every week. I have been lucky to have had some articles printed by Sec-Ed over the last two years. The article was based on the idea of ‘what tools does a teacher need?’ This was quite tricky as we all have different ideas but I hope you get the idea!

I really enjoy sharing ideas with other practitioners and learning a new technique or way of doing something. Sometimes we are left to our own devices and perhaps we should be talking and sharing resources more often.

The main tools I focused on were;

  • Blogs
  • Working as a team
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Enjoy your lessons
  • Assessment for Learning (Afl)
  • Reflective teaching

The full article can be accessed here. I hope you enjoy the read! Many thanks to Pete Henshaw, Editor of Sec-Ed, once again for printing my article – cheers!

Goodbye 2010, and hello 2011

Wow! A new term and a new year, 2011, bring it on! 

For those of you who have not read my blog, my name is Mike Tidd. I am the Head of Geography at Gillingham School in Dorset. I have been a teacher for most of my working life and I immensely enjoy my role as a teacher. I have a deep interest in education developments and I am motivated to help my fellow practitioners and students to achieve their potential.

Over the past two weeks I have had a chance to reflect back on a very eventful year. As I get older I seem to find the years do get faster and I sometimes find it hard to pack everything in I would like to. 2010 was my first year as a blogger on the blogosphere. I started one year ago as a new writer in a cyber world I was not always sure about. Creating my own web site has given me the chance to improve my IT skills and look at the wealth of knowledge out there. This has helped improve my knowledge, understanding and my teaching.

I started my second year at Gillingham School in Dorset in September as Head of Geography. I have been lucky enough to work with a very dedicated department whose enthusiasm remains high. They have been a great bunch of geographers to work with (yes, all seven of you!). Our results last summer were exceptional and is a reflection of the hard work of the geography teachers and the students efforts – well done to everyone!

2010 was also a year of field trips. Fieldtrips, in my opinion, are an integral part of geography. We are very lucky at Gillingham School that we have a Senior Management Team that also see the benefits of field trips. The year 7’s went to Stourhead as part of the Lavlantic Cup Challenge developing their map skills through orienteering. The Year 8’s had the opportunity to go the Brecon Beacons for some glacial geography and GIS fieldwork techniques. The year 9’s went to Marwell Zoo for sustainable and ecological learning. The year 11’s went to Lyme Regis for coastal erosion, deposition and management as part of their controlled assessment. And finally, year 12 went to Barcelona looking at urban and rural rebranding and extreme weather. Lots of planning but it’s what makes geography so special!

Now that 2010 is gone, what will 2011 bring Mike Tidd?

Controlled Assessments


With a new curriculum and syllabus I will be taking much interest in the results of our controlled assessments. I have written previously about my thoughts and feelings towards this type of assessment. From doing our first controlled assessment last term we have learnt many things we would better next time to improve the student’s experience. With other subject areas doing controlled assessments there has been a huge pressure on the students. They do seem to be on an endless cycle of exams over four years if they continue into A’Level. The jury, in my opinion, is still out on the changes that have been made with the syllabus changes. 


This year my Department will be creating and developing a trial controlled assessment for Year 9. We feel the students need to develop the skills we require at KS4 and beyond. A GCSE style field trip would offer the students the skills needed and the experience of completing a GCSE piece of work.  As a geography teacher I am very much in favor of field trips. Firstly, they enhance the student’s experience fo the subject by reinforcing their learning and understanding within the classroom. Secondly, it further develops the students as young adults. Fieldtrips do offer students an experience where they can develop their individual and team work skills. 

Key Stage 4 Changes 

Now that we are going into the second year of the new GCSE, we shall continue to tweak and make changes to our curriculum. Now that we are completing our second year of the GCSE curriculum we have a much better understanding the requirements of the exam and what our students need to achieve to gain their grades.

Development and whole scale overhaul of KS3

With the new curriculum at Key Stage 4 and 5, Key Stage 3 must be a priority in the up coming year. We do seem to be on a continuous cycle of rewriting, but we must not forget the building blocks of a successful education. Key Stage 3 can be sometimes be forgotten about in this world of examinations at KS4 and 5. The young students at KS3 need the skills and knowledge to help them in their later geography education. 

Mentoring New Teachers


I would like to see the department become a centre for new geography teachers to learn their craft. I feel we have a wide variety of teachers and expertise that would help any new teacher. This is an area I would really like to start occurring this year at some point.

Personally, I would like to continue to develop as a geography teacher. I know my strengths and weaknesses and appreciate I am far from the finished article. Teaching is a career where you can always continue to develop as a practitioner. I will continue to write about my experiences along with my thoughts and feelings on the education developments that occur as the year goes on.

Geography is the subject of the 21st century and I hope to hear from you all at some point during the year.

Celebrating Success

For all of us I am sure it has been a very long and productive year. Today, we get a chance to celebrate and congratulate our AS and A2 students. Personally, it is the end of my first year of teaching at Gillingham School in Dorset as Head of Geography. It has been a thought-provoking, productive and exciting year for myself, one I have very much enjoyed. I have been extremely lucky to work with an outstanding department who all bring their own individual strengths to make Geography a fantastic experience for all our students. With the GCSE and A’Level changes there has been much to think about and contend with along with teaching every day. As my fellow geography teacher Andy Jenkins said, ‘great things are not built-in one day or even one year, enjoy the summer and bring on September.’

Good luck with the results today, I would love to hear how everyone gets on. Over the coming weeks I shall be writing about what I have been up to over the past few months and what lies ahead for the world of Geography in education. If anyone would like to share or add their views with myself or get in contact please feel free to make a comment by clicking below or via the ‘get in touch’ tab at the top of the web page.

Learning from Films

It was not long into my education career as a teacher that I started to realise the importance and usefulness of film in my lessons. I had always been using documentaries and footage from DVDs and videos in my lessons but I had not realised what films could offer. It got my mind racing on different aspects of films that could be shown to pupils within different subject areas. I soon realised that films could enhance and develop a pupils learning and encourage them to be life long learners.

In April 2009 I wrote an article for Sec-Ed regarding the usefulness of films in education called Learning from Films. I have used films in the classroom and have found they have a lasting impression on a young students mind. Films are a successful way of engaging and stimulating young people.

Films can enhance a lesson and excite a young mind with their powerful and thought provoking subject matter. Dr. Pietari Kaapa of the University of Nottingham has stated that, “cinema as both a popular form of entertainment and a means of artistic and political expression, is a crucial area of classroom teaching. The pedagogical potential of film provides an immediate and invigorating addition to established lesson plans, while the history of the medium and its contextual socio-cultural relevance function as sources of study in their own right.”

As a Geography Teacher I have used a wide variety of different films to help show and back up key terminology or sometimes complex geographical features. The world today has created a generation of young people with very active minds. The days of a teacher in a classroom talking for 50 minutes are long gone and would not generate much enthusiasm from today’s young learners. Interaction and variety is what is needed to engage learners and film is one medium that can grip a young person’s attention. Film can enthuse and generate much debate and help a learner.

Pupils are requested to use and take part in different types of media within their learning from the National Curriculum. Films like music should be encouraged to be used within the classroom. Nick Hargreaves of Radipole Primary School in Weymouth, Dorset, believes that ‘‘films are a really valid text as much as books. With the National Curriculum we have to look at various types of media within a child’s learning and film is one way. Films are not always easy to understand and it does take time sometimes for a young learner to fully understand the complexities of a film like the music changing in relation to the mood of the film.’’ As we are aware there are three types of learners; visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. A film is one medium that incorporates all three learning styles and can hold the attention and pass on knowledge and understanding to all three main learning styles.  Nick Hargreaves says ‘film takes into account how a learner learns…it attracts the three main types of learners and engages all of them in one sitting. It reaches out to all target levels especially boys’.

It is not only watching films but using/making films within a lesson. This is sometimes difficult to do with budgets and time constraints but can be a worthwhile exercise. Young people like to be more involved in classes and using digital film recorders is one way. Pupils should be encouraged to produce news reports, presentations or stop motion modelling to help their knowledge and understanding. The technology and resources are out there and we as teachers must start to use them for the benefit of our pupils and ourselves as practitioners.

It may be uncomfortable for some of us to film ourselves in a lesson and to watch our mannerisms but would it further develop ourselves as teachers? I think the answer would be yes and should be encouraged with any teacher new or old. Filiming ourselves could be way of encourging our own development as teachers.

I remember reading Great Expectations at school and found watching the David Lean adaption a much needed guiding hand when it came to revising for the GCSE. A film may not always be true or correct, but in the right hands, us as teachers, we can filter out the bad and use the great pieces of film there is out there waiting to be used.

Welcome to

My name is Mike Tidd and I am Head of Geography at Gillingham School in Dorset. I have been a teacher for most of my working life and I immensely enjoy my role as a teacher. I have a deep interest in education developments and I am motivated to help fellow practitioners and young people to achieve their potential.

Over the last few years I have watched colleagues and friends write their own blogs with much interest and delight. I have seen the response these have received and how people can work collaboratively together to make a difference. It has finally come to that moment where I have decided to join the ‘conversation’.

My website will be focusing primarily on education within the UK. I shall be writing about new education developments, geography as a leading subject and how new technologies may have a role to play in education.

I look forward to your future comments from what I blog about.

I wish you all a successful 2010!