Geography teachers are well used to dressing in windy weather. But recent announcements may leave them feeling propelled from one pillar to the next.
Despite all the challenges of Covid, this summer should have been a source of pride throughout the geographic community: grades obtained by teachers, announcements from the Department of Education that allowed schools to make day-long visits and residential fieldwork, with GCSE numbers reaching 268,000 applicants and entry to Level A geography increasing 16 percent.
However, Ofqual’s proposals for the 2022 GCSEs, which midway through would introduce an option into next summer’s exams, are of much more immediate concern. For example, one of the GCSE courses affected by these proposals will ask students to answer questions about Is the changing economic world or resource management – not both like in previous years.
It is fair to seek to support schools’ Covid catch-up efforts. Using options to reduce content (or the content of the weight loss course itself) can help.
GCSE geography: important issues
However, the thorny practicalities of how and when such decisions are implemented during a live course present significant challenges, which the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) already raised with Ofqual in the summer of 2020.
At that point, the RGS suggested that, if there was an appetite for optionality, this should be urgently explored by the awarding bodies, Ofqual and subject matter experts, including the RGS. , geographic association and others.
The opportunity for proposals that could have garnered the support of key community stakeholders was lost.
So, today geography teachers are faced with this problem but with the looming deadline of August 1 to respond. If implemented, their past decisions about the order in which their course was taught – which may vary from school to school – will have profound implications.
If electives were covered in Grade 10, teachers might feel that they have put their students at a disadvantage, entering Grade 11 with a full program of compulsory units.
Conversely, other schools, which are on the positive side of Ofqual’s proposal, could choose their preferred optional subjects for Grade 11 and free up time, allowing them to review required units and potentially additional revision.
Like a teacher says, “The potential inequality is obvious. Another teacher, from which students would really benefit from the proposal, said: “Students should not be penalized for the order of subjects taught on the basis of decisions made a year ago.
Geography teachers: “It’s ridiculous”
The comments of teachers whose students seem to lose the most of the proposals are clear: “We taught the now optional units and will spend Grade 11 having to teach the now compulsory units, when other schools may be able to revise the now compulsory units. content. more thoroughly. “
Another said, “This is so ridiculous. We have taught most of paper one (only climate risks left to do) but we still have British humans to do. Most of paper three will have to be redone.
I see support from geography teachers for the general principle of reducing content or providing an additional option for GCSE specifications. However, there was concern about undertaking such profound changes midway through a live course.
In addition, Ofqual’s proposals contrast with the conclusions set out in their Optional: an information document (2020). This argued that “introducing / extending optionality in specifications and exams that currently do not have it, and doing so at a sustained pace, risks disadvantaging students”[and”maywellbenefitthegroupsitintendstohelp”[and”mightwellfurtherdisadvantagethegroupsthatitintendedtohelp”[et« pourraitbiendésavantagerdavantagelesgroupesqu’elleentendaitaider »[and“mightwellfurtherdisadvantagethegroupsthatitintendedtohelp”
Regarding the 2021 round of reviews, this briefing paper ended with the statement that “it is not true that introducing / increasing optionality is a risk-free way to ‘ensure the safe delivery of the summer exam series’.
The RGS believes that it is right to seek to mitigate the impact of the Covid on the education of young people. Our responses to the consultation offered practical suggestions regarding possible adjustments that could be made to the GCSE and A-level geography during the pandemic.
We have also been working to support schools with the changes that have been implemented, namely the removal of fieldwork accountability for GCSE and A levels 2022. As of midterm, dozens of schools share news of their field activities on social networks.
They and all other schools can be assured that they will not have to indicate whether they have undertaken all of the fieldwork that would normally be expected for GCSE or A level.
However, when it comes to the new proposal to introduce the mid-term option, it is difficult to see how this can be applied fairly to all – and, for this reason, it should be rejected.
Steve Brace is Head of Education and Outdoor Learning at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). You can follow him on Twitter at @SteveBraceGeog