Aim: To raise attainment and participation in GCSE Geography in order to make a significant contribution to the EBacc results. This was to be achieved by overhauling the Key Stage 3 Curriculum and focusing on the quality of teaching, learning and leadership within the department.

Background: Pass rates in Geography were below average.


Year 1:

  • An audit of teaching and learning (T&L) in Geography was completed. Good and Outstanding practice was identified in T&L at KS4, but only Satisfactory practice was identified at KS3, with too much passivity from pupils.
  • Department discussion of an audit and action plan were agreed.
  • A KS3 (Year 9) scheme of work review/overhaul commenced and joint lesson planning, self- and peer-evaluation began.
  • A new Geography specialist was appointed.
  • There was a positive outlook from department members.

Year 2:

  • The KS3 scheme of work was adjusted so that there was a clear focus on a reduced number of key questions for each topic area. This facilitated more creative and in-depth learning in specific areas.
  • T&L strategies became a permanent agenda item for departmental meetings and colleagues shared ideas and resources. A key focus in class was the use of paired discussion and questioning to encourage deeper thinking.
  • Another audit of T&L was completed which reported that: “overall, the quality of teaching has improved from that observed a year ago” and “questioning was a particular strength”.

Year 3:

  • GCSE (A*-C) results improved to 48%, just short of the target of 50%.
  • 3 sets took GCSE Geography in Year 10 (65 pupils), up from 2 small sets (27 pupils) in the previous year.
  • Developing appropriate fieldwork was identified as a key target for the KS3 subject leader.

Year 4: 3 full sets took GCSE Geography in Year 10 (70 pupils), and fieldwork was incorporated into the KS3 Year 8 scheme of work.

Evidence: Pupil survey results, staff survey/focus group results, lesson observations, subject take-up at Key Stage 4, attainment data including A*-C and A*-A pass rates.

Impact: By the end of the project (Year 5):

  • The GCSE pass rate at A*-C improved significantly to 70% (up from 40% in 2011), whilst the A*-A pass rate improved to 14% (up from 6.4% in 2011).
  • The improved outcomes in Geography contributed to the school’s highest Ebacc pass rate of 36% (up from 10% in 2011).
  • The numbers opting to study Geography at GCSE rose to one quarter of the year group (75 pupils).
  • A Level Geography was introduced, with ten students opting to study it.

Reflections: These initiatives have proven very positive for both staff and pupils. Staff retention has improved as a result of a number of factors including better teaching and learning, excellent student behaviour, high quality leadership and the recognition of talent.

Contact: Sir Paul Grant, Headteacher,