Barcelona 2010

This year I have had the chance to organise the A’Level field trip to Barcelona. I have organised many field trips over the years but this was my first overseas trip. At Gillingham School the Geography Department have been going to Barcelona for the last twelve years with much success. Initially it was quite daunting planning a trip overseas but I have had much help and guidance for which I am especially grateful for – thank you team!

For our A’Level the students are requested to undertake several days fieldwork which they are assessed for in January as part of an examination. Our focus for the trip was rebranding and extreme weather. Going to Barcelona lets us complete all these topics and at a much cheaper cost compared to the UK. We also complete our fieldwork with the Barcelona Field Studies Centre who are very experienced team of geographers run by Derek Geary.

Day one consists of an orientation tour of Barcelona city and a pre-fieldwork session outling the field trip.

Day two is primarily the extreme weather day focusing on flash flooding at the River Ribes.

Day three is the rural rebranding day in the Priorat region of Spain looking at the success of the wine industry.

Day Four is the urban rebranding day in El Raval looking at the success of the flagship development projects.  

After each day the students work extremely hard on looking at and evaluating their methods, results and conclusions. Well done and thank you to everyone involved – you were all brilliant!

Movember

 

This month the Humanities Department at my school, Gillingham School, are growing moustaches in aid of ‘Movember’. Movember challenges men to change their facial appearance and the face of men’s health by growing a moustache.  The rules are very simple, grow a moustache for 30 days and raise funds. The funds raised are given to The Prostrate Cancer Charity, the UK’s leading prostrate cancer charity. Last year over £26 million was raised. If you would like to donate please follow this link here, Gillingham Humanities Crew, all money raised is greatly received. I will of course put a picture up of my moustache at the end of the 30 days! Thank you to you all who donate!!

Controlled Assessments

We have just finished completing our controlled assessment in geography to mixed reviews. Have other schools felt the same?

As a department we have a very successful record of doing well across all types of learners and is something as teachers we are proud of. Like any job/role this has taking a lot of time and effort to put in place. But I recently felt from completing the controlled assessment that it is stretching the higher ability students and maybe not so helpful or beneficial for the less able students. Whereas before you could push and motivate a C/D student to gain a C, now with the examination high level control they get a D. The higher ability students though have really enjoyed the expereince. With a busy stressful year, many of our Year 11 students have not enjoyed their experience due to the following factors:

  • Students are less than enthused with more exams
  • Increase in pressure/stress on Year 11
  • Teacher/Student free time is lost when time is lost due to trips/absences
  • They have to complete certain sections in exam conditions
  • Completion of the CAT is across several weeks when other committments happen
  • They can’t complete the work in the time periods set

I would like to hear other schools’ experiences of the controlled assessment. Is it working in your centre? I am sure with time the experience will be more positive, but it does not feel like the experience we were first told about.

GIS for Beginners

With the new Controlled Assessments for GCSE it has highlighted that Geographic Information Systems (GIS) must be used in the students work. This has made it necessary that every member of a Geography Department has an awareness of GIS and that students need to develop their skills from an early age. With this in mind the Geographical Association has put together a series of two-day training courses aimed at geography teachers who are new to GIS. 

A geographic information system (GIS) integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analysing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS allows us to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts. A GIS helps you answer questions and solve problems by looking at your data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared.

The following information is from the Geographical Association website which outlines The GIS for Beginners course;

  • Day one: After a brief overview of GIS, you will develop basic GIS skills through hands-on practical exercises and case studies. This will help you to create a GIS resource for your school. Through a myGIS practical activity you will be introduced to the main functions of DigitalWorlds. You will also look at GIS in the curriculum/exam specifications.
  • Back in the classroom: Over the next few weeks you will put your GIS skills into practice using your ESRI(UK) software.
  • Day two: An opportunity for feedback and reflection before progressing on to more advanced GIS skills.

Course aims and outcomes

  • To outline the difference between visualisation and GIS and develop both basic and more advanced skills using DigitalWorlds software
  • To increase familiarity with DigitalWorlds software, and the way that it can be used in geographical enquiries and Controlled Assessment tasks
  • To allow time for school-based reflection and development of GIS in the curriculum
  • To introduce delegates to the online community of GIS users and additional sources of ongoing support
  • To provide ideas for using GIS at KS3, and to supplement Controlled Assessment tasks at GCSE
  • To provide examples of places to find further data and mapping, and ongoing support for your professional development
  • To gain confidence with DigitalWorlds software, to be able to use it with students, and develop enquiry sequences which are engaging and relevant to individual school contexts
  • To become familiar with some more advanced GIS skills

This sounds a great opportunity for Geography Departments across the country to develop and improve the GIS that is currently being taught giving the students the best opportunities on developing the necessary skills to gain their top grades. The Geographical Association are brilliant at delivering these course. If you are interested or want to know more please follow the link here. I know we will be booking one of these courses at Gillingham!

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.

Reflective Teaching

This year in education has been one of change and planning for the future. With the new GCSEs, AS/A2 curriculum changes it has given me much to think about since I joined Gillingham School in September 2009. Joining a very successful school and department I have had big shoes to fill, a challenge I have relished. I believe I have put in place the correct building blocks for the future. This month I have had a chance to look back and reflect upon our successes and future developments. For a successful department I believe you must not look at too many areas to change, focus, innovate or tweak. Geoff Barton, Headteacher of the King Edward XI School likened managing a large department to plate spinning, you have to be able to manage each of the areas you start to change – too many and the plates start crashing around you. Personally, a maximum of five strategies/innovations is perfect. Making sure your strategies are manageable and flexible you are able to keep a good grasp and move the strategies forward.

Idris Mootee, of  the innovation playground blog,  has said, ‘innovation is hard, it is not about getting the ideas at all, it is about managing ideas. So you have a few great ideas, so what? The future is never about the future but now.’

The five strategies we will be focusing on are outlined below:

  • Teaching & learning

The primary target for improvement this year revolves around teaching & learning within Geography. As a Department we want to teach the best we can and we are looking at our lessons and seeing where we can make improvements and implementing new teaching strategies. We must make our teaching experience more personal for the students and improve their independent study skills. This must be developed from KS3 onwards and carried on within the school.

  • Assessment for Learning

AFL is a very important skill and is an area where we could develop within Geography. As teachers we are sometimes too controlling and we must put the onus back on the students for them to achieve. Investigating methods and ways of implementing this into our schemes of work must be one of our priorities. This will encourage student learning and raise achievement across all year groups. AFL will also help improve the student’s knowledge of using a mark scheme and what to include in a good answer. This will reduce our marking and in the long-term our workload.

  • Reflective Teaching (including observations)

As teachers we must be more reflective of our own practice and make amendments where we need to. We must utilise our strengths and work on our areas of development. Observations are vitally important to watch other teachers and how students learn. This would be ideally done within the Department and with other Departments once a term where possible. This should therefore improve our own teaching and benefit the students .Working with other colleagues will help develop cross curricular opportunities to raise achievement throughout the school.

  • Technology

Geography has prided itself on using technology where possible to improve our lessons and the student experience. This needs to be further developed to further enhance our learning and the students. GIS must be developed within the Department across all year groups.

  • International link with a school abroad and feeder schools

As part of our role in the local and global community we would be looking to develop a link with a school abroad. This would develop our student’s knowledge of their role within a global community and understanding of issues that occur worldwide.

Locally we would like to work with the feeder schools on developing our link and improving geography. This would enhance geography’s status and develop their geographical knowledge. Geography is sometimes not always taught in primary schools to a high level and we would like to develop this to help their progression and achievement later on.

Please get in contact regarding what your departments/schools are planning/changing for the future…I would love to hear them especially in these uncertain times with possible budget/curriculum changes.

Personal, Learning & Thinking Skills

I am slowly catching up with my blogs at the moment as it seems to be a very busy term so far. Recently I went on a course run by Dorset County Council. This was my first course in my new county having previously worked in Hampshire and Surrey. The course itself was based on ‘Focusing on Skills in Foundation Subjects’ particularly personal, learning and thinking skills and run by Katie Ashcroft, Foundation Subjects Consultant. Personal learning and thinking skills (PLTS), together with functional English, mathematics, and ICT, cover the areas of competence that are most often demanded by employers. Integrating these skills into the curriculum and qualifications will provide learners with a platform for employability and further learning. PLTS involve:

  • team working
  • independent enquiry
  • self-management
  • reflective learning
  • effective participation
  • creative thinking.

The course itself was split into three sessions;

  • Session 1 – Developing pupils’ independent enquiry skills
  • Session 2 – Developing pupils’ team work skills
  • Session 3 – Developing a cross-curricular approach in foundation subjects

It is was a very informative and enjoyable course. It was great that they re-emphasised the importance of PLTS in lessons. PLTS help prepare pupils for the future, in and out of school. They develop the essential skills and qualities for to be a life long learner, life and future employment. They also provide a common focus for learning across subjects and provides great opportunities for cross curricular collaboration. PLTS use functional, transferable and creative skills which can be applied to real life scenarios.

It was pleasing to be given the opportunity during the course to identify the skills our department might want to develop in geography and reflect. With the new GCSEs and A’Level syallbus’ this course has come at a good time for reviewing the schemes of work we have developed so far and want to develop in the future. As teachers we sometimes forget about the skills the pupils require and focus on the content we need to teach. It has to be a balance of both and is something we feel at Gillingham we are achieving. It is also vitally very important that the pupils are clear about the skills they need to be successful in your subject area.

There was particular emphasis on cross curricular links and their importance within schools. This is a requirement within the new Secondary Curriculum for all subjects to explore connections with other subjects. Cross-curricular links provide a more coherent and relevant experience for the learner. It enables all pupils to understand the importance of different subjects and in helping them make a sense of the world. It provides pupils with the opportunity to apply the knowledge, understanding and skills they have acquired in one subject to a different context. For those of you investigating to develop cross-curricular links I recommend looking at the subject comparison web-page provided by the National Curriculum, which can be accessed here.  

The course linked the theory of skills to what Ofsted are looking for within schools. This is key for any school to have an awareness of what Ofsted expect from us as practitioners. I have quoted below Ofsted’s expectations;

‘The school’s curriculum provides memorable experiences and rich opportunities for high-quality learning…The school may be at the forefront of successful, innovative curriculum design in some areas…A curriculum with overall breath and balance provides pupils with their full entitlement and is customised to meet the changing needs of individuals and groups…Cross-curricular provision…is mainly outstanding and there is nothing less than good. As a result, all groups of pupils benefit from a highly coherent and relevant curriculum which promotes outstanding outcomes.’

These are skills I feel all schools’ are trying to achieve. Unfortunately, they do not happen over night and they do take time to develop and integrate in the school community. By sharing good practice, an understanding of what we want to achieve and hard work these skills will start to appear in all schools.

Welcome to miketidd.com

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!