Aim: To allow pupils of all abilities to achieve a greater understanding of GCSE Geography through fieldwork, and for them to attain the highest marks possible for their controlled assessment.

Background: It was felt that pupils should take much greater responsibility for planning and developing their own controlled assessments, designing at least one of their own methods.


Year 1: Pupils designed personal questionnaires and attitudinal surveys to gather data for their controlled assessment. The impact was highly positive, and a deeper understanding of their study allowed pupils to gain confidence in detailed interpretation of the data. In 2013/14 91% of pupils achieved at least one grade above their target GCSE grade in their controlled assessment.

Year 2: There was a more careful focus on the quality of research being conducted by higher ability pupils, who were encouraged to develop high quality, unique questionnaires to critically evaluate land-use changes. Focusing on the quality of data collection, rather than the number of techniques, allowed pupils to deepen their understanding of the study and show their own personal research more clearly. To help pupils improve their evaluations, they analysed old pieces of controlled assessment against the marking criteria to gain a clearer understanding of the features of level 3 (the highest level) evaluations.

Evidence: Student questionnaires, controlled assessment results.

Impact: Focusing pupils’ attention on the marking criteria during the planning stages of controlled assessment has helped pupils gain a much deeper and clearer understanding of how they can achieve the best grades possible.

Average controlled assessment marks have improved: In 2013 the average mark was 44/60 (73%), in 2014 it was 46/60 (77%) and in 2015 it was 48/60 (80%). This is equivalent to an ‘A’ grade for all pupils, a very good achievement considering the broad mix of abilities within the teaching groups. Much of this increase is due to pupils producing their own research materials, which has allowed them to achieve level 3 marks for their ‘methodology’ and ‘interpretation of results’ criteria.

The impact of the focus on quality research and interpretation for higher ability pupils has been evident, as those sitting the higher exam paper in 2015 achieved an average assessment mark of 51/60 (85%).

Reflections: This project has re-affirmed the importance of the high professional standards and high expectations which a subject leader should have of both their teaching colleagues and pupils. Without high expectations, academic success is hard to achieve in any school, let alone one which serves an area of recognised deprivation and disadvantage. Nevertheless, our pupils have created controlled assessments which are academically rigorous and investigative. I feel the main success of this project stems from setting our ambitions high for all pupils, regardless of their GCSE target grades. I feel our low and middle ability pupils have all performed very well and our higher ability pupils have also been allowed to flourish.

Contact: Paul Hickman,