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Whilst other disciplines may study landscape, flora and fauna, the atmosphere, people and culture, the built environment and political territories, geography is the only discipline that concerns itself with the relationships between these resulting in spatial differentiation.
Studying geography therefore helps unravel the truth. It is this pursuit of truth which distinguishes disciplinary knowledge from everyday social and cultural knowledge and is the cornerstone of our curriculum.
Knowledge is the common currency for social and economic exchange. A good geography curriculum takes place in a climate of high expectations to allow students to participate in social and economic exchange at all levels of society. This requires taking students beyond their lived experiences, challenging misconceptions and making sense of complex interactions between human and physical phenomena over space. This dovetails with the overarching aim of the Harris Federation to “end the cycle of poverty and disadvantage: to improve the life chances for all students, and concomitantly the local community within which they live.”
As well as being able to contribute to societal discussions at the highest levels, students are encouraged to see their geographical knowledge as a piece in the jigsaw that can challenge the mechanisms that create and reinforce social injustice both locally, nationally and globally and also imagine alternative futures.
Geographical enquiry is at the heart of our curriculum. This owes to the fact that some knowledge is fallible and open to debate because it is susceptible to the limitations of theories and ideas created by people. As such a ‘tick-list’ of key facts does not constitute academic excellence; facts on their own are not knowledge.
An enquiry approach helps students to engage with, and make sense of, geographical data, and encourages a questioning approach supported by evidence from the real world. Enquiry deepens conceptual understanding through reasoning, data interpretation, argumentation and fieldwork. Within Geography this means becoming increasingly literate in geographical information software. Enquiry incorporates a range of approaches to teaching and learning including both those strongly led by teachers and those with greater independence for students
We acknowledge that without competent and confident literacy skills, our students cannot flourish in the world; it is therefore our duty through the Geography curriculum to develop the basic technical accuracy of oral, reading and written skills to a proficient level of fluency which will enable students to communicate creatively and confidently through these crucial mediums.
Students will deploy subject-specific technical vocabulary with increasing accuracy. Equally Geography is a numerate subject and frequently includes solving numerical problems, it is therefore our duty to develop students numeracy skills.
We recognise that freeing students from the limitations of their experience is always potentially ‘alienating’ for the students; however, the job of teachers is to help students go beyond, and sometimes resist, the cultural forces that they experience every day. As such, learning powerful geographical knowledge takes time and can challenge the very identity of learners - but it is worth it. One approach that reduces this ‘alienation’ is to grapple with personal and local geographies so that the geographical knowledge and understanding gleaned about their own context can be applied at regional, national and global scales.
Enabling students to participate in the economic and social exchange at all levels of society is not primarily so that students can ‘get a job’ when they leave school. Finding a good job after school is not a concern that can be dealt with educationally - instead thinking geographically helps enrich student’s employment prospects by strengthening the intellectual resources of young people by the time they leave school.