Principles and Purpose of Geography Curriculum

“The study of geography is about more than just memorising places on a map. It's about understanding the complexity of our world, appreciating the diversity of cultures that exist across continents. And in the end, it's about using all that knowledge to help bridge divides and bring people together.” Barack Obama


The Geography curriculum at BCCS has been designed to create global citizens that are aware of the world’s opportunities and challenges. Our curriculum equips students with powerful knowledge and cultural capital about diverse places, people, resources and natural and human environments.  Students engage with and discuss these topics, enabling them to thrive in a global society.  We have built key geographical skills into the curriculum to create Geographers that are able to interpret and make sense of sources such as maps, graphs and tables, as well as students that can critique the information they are presented with. Fieldwork skills are embedded throughout all three key stages. Schemes of learning support critical thinking and result in increased student ownership of learning.


The nature of Geography as a subject means there is a wide range of topics that could be studied as part of our curriculum. We have carefully selected the topics within our Programme of Study to reflect the needs and interests of our diverse student population. For example, in Year 8 we cover the topic ‘What is Africa really like?’. When teaching this topic teachers regularly comment on how their lessons have benefited from student voice about their own familial experiences of a variety of African countries and cultures. Our curriculum is designed to be inclusive for all learners - providing support for those students who need it, whilst ensuring stretch and challenge so that all learners thrive in our classrooms. 


By covering a broad curriculum in Key Stage 3 and beyond students gain a breadth of knowledge about the world and the interactions between these places, people and processes. We equip students with the ability to join in conversations and debates about some of today’s most pressing issues. Ultimately our curriculum promotes BCCS students coming together to thrive as informed, hopeful, kind and courageous people.

Why this, why now?

Geographical Journey

Our Key Stage 3 curriculum has been designed to take students on an exciting journey from local to global Geography, allowing them to build their locational knowledge of many places in the world. Our students enter Year 7 from a large number of primary schools, initial topics therefore work on building a firm foundation in Geographical skills, preparing them for more complicated concepts and processes to be securely taught and understood later. After this, in Year 7 students learn about their local place and UK geography, they then build on this in Year 8 when they begin to look at countries and continents elsewhere in the world (e.g. How can we sustainably manage the Amazon?). In Year 9 students are explicitly learning about global connections within the world, with topics such as global superpowers, global issues and the contested space of Antarctica. Within each scheme of work topics are taught with a theory - issues - solutions' approach, enabling students to use powerful knowledge to consider real world solutions and to be involved in exciting debates.


Themes and Concepts

In order to emphasise the links between topics the KS3 Geography curriculum has been divided into the following themes and concepts (see table 1 below). Student themes are used to highlight connections between topics, allowing previous topics to be revisited, creating a narrative that shows pupils how the different components of Geography fit together. This improves students' fluency in Geography, thus securing their learning over time. Teacher based concepts are used during curriculum and lesson planning by staff, the concepts have been adapted from the Edexcel A level specification that we follow, ensuring continuity from Year 7 to Year 13. Despite having the three types of Geography as separate themes, the interconnected nature of Geography means that the interactions between human, physical and environmental processes are woven into all schemes of work.


Table 1: Themes and Concepts used for Key Stage 3 curriculum design

Student Themes

Teacher Concepts

  • Skills and Fieldwork
  • Physical Processes
  • Human Processes & Cultural Awareness
  • Environmental Impact and Sustainable Development
  • Development
  • Globalisation
  • Inequality
  • Interdependence
  • Resilience
  • Risk
  • Sustainability
  • Systems


Substantive and Disciplinary knowledge

When considering substantive knowledge, environmental, physical and human geography are mapped throughout our KS3 Programme of Study and clearly seen within the AQA GCSE and Edexcel A level exam specifications. Both locational and place knowledge are further built into our units. In Year 7 students are taught about reference systems and this is revisited throughout their Geographical education. Our curriculum has been designed to build a wide knowledge of different countries, regions and features, including the physical location of these. Students are also taught to appreciate these locations as places, by teaching about people, the environment and the relationships between them, other places and students’ own experiences. Finally, geographical skills are covered in all units of work and students undertake fieldwork each year, culminating in an independent NEA at A level. By using enquiry based learning and teaching students to critique information and appreciate a wide range of viewpoints, students are able to develop disciplinary knowledge in parallel with their substantive knowledge. Students are able to use evidence, construct and test hypotheses and debate different viewpoints along with how this geography may change over time. Students become confident in asking questions about what they have learnt and are encouraged to ask questions about the learning itself.

Geography Curriculum

Teaching the Geography Curriculum

Enquiry Approach

Geography at BCCS  is taught by a department of enthusiastic subject specialist teachers.  Much of the teaching is based around an enquiry approach. Each lesson has a lesson question to promote curiosity, and topics and case studies are up to date to engage students in real world issues and solutions. Students become secure in their knowledge through explicit instruction, before engaging in tasks that allow them to also develop their critical thinking, ultimately deciding the answer themselves. We therefore create active learners. Tasks include continuum activities, living graphs and silent debates.  Lessons are sequenced so that students have the opportunity to recap knowledge from previous lessons and schemes of work, linking new learning to what they already know, and helping them remember.


The skill of communication is emphasised within Geography lessons. Questioning and discussion primarily centred around a ‘think - pair - share’ approach, where responses are bounced around the room - ensuring answers are not simple or only provided by a select few. Debates and group discussions feature in most schemes of work. In order to develop oracy, geographical vocabulary is taught explicitly. Using the research carried out by one of our teachers during her recent NPQML project we regularly use Frayer Models, choral recall and discussion of key vocabulary in a range of contexts (for example relief as geographical relief, but also the emotion of relief and artistic technique of relief). This ensures students can engage with what is being taught, regardless of their starting point.

Inclusive Teaching

Teaching is carefully designed to cater for all our students, including SEND students. The Geography department works with the learning support team to ensure that tasks are differentiated to meet the needs of students in the room, allowing all students to own their learning experience. All lessons are appropriate for neurodiverse students with all components of the lesson considered, ranging from slide design, dual coding to design of appropriate tasks. A mix of auditory, kinesthetic and and visual learning is used to support all types of learners. We are excited to have recently resumed our KS5 mentor programme (which paused due to Covid), whereby A level students volunteer to provide extra support in KS3 lessons. This provides an excellent opportunity for some of the most able students in the school, along with extra support for younger students. Lessons all include a range of AIM tasks, whereby students are encouraged to think beyond the lesson content. This may include providing further reading and questions around this, using additional data and resources to add to or change their initial view point, or considering why things may be different elsewhere or in the future.

Assessing the Geography Curriculum

At KS3 we officially assess every unit twice. Assessment 1 is a formative assessment used to gauge understanding and to aid progress, usually in the form of a PEEL paragraph or extended piece of writing. Self and peer assessment may be used along with whole class feedback being provided to students. Students are all given an opportunity to respond to this feedback. Assessment 2 is a summative end of unit assessment that is split into three sections. Section one is a multiple choice recall quiz with questions from an older topic of the same student theme (e.g. in the coasts assessment students are tested on rivers); section two is a multiple choice recall quiz on the current topic; and section three is longer data response and knowledge response answers following a 1,2,3,4,6 or 9 mark format. The aim of these is to practise recall, measure attainment in terms of knowledge, understanding and skills and track progress. These are marked individually and class feedback is given. Students are given a DIRT lesson to improve their answers, Results allow teachers to highlight misconceptions and inform further teaching and where interventions may be required.


KS4 and 5 follow a similar pattern, with at least one marked question taken in the middle of every enquiry question and an exam section being completed in exam conditions at the end of every topic. The purpose of these is the same as in KS3. Outcomes are recorded against FFT targets and interventions are put in place for those underachieving. All students receive feedback and are given appropriate RARs to allow them to progress individually.

Progression in the Geography Curriculum

In the Geographical Association publication ‘A Progression Framework for Geography’ three aspects for achievement in teaching Geography are identified. These are linked to the aims of the National Curriculum and progress and interconnect with Assessment Objectives at GCSE and A Level. The three aspects for achievement are:

  1. Contextual World Knowledge of locations, places and geographical features
  2. Understanding of the conditions, processes and interactions that explain features, distribution patterns and changes over time and space
  3. Competence in geographical enquiry and the application of skills in observing, collecting, analysing, evaluating and communicating geographical information.

Table 2 below shows how students progress through these aspects of achievement as they move through their Geographical education at BCCS. Criteria have been taken from Geographical Association guidance and Edexcel A level specification. 

Table 2: Progression in Geography at BCCS


Contextual world knowledge


Geographical Enquiry

End of KS3 

(National Curriculum)

Have extensive knowledge relating to a wide range of places, environments and features at a variety of appropriate spatial scales, extending from local to global

Understand the physical and human conditions and processes that lead to the development of, and change in, a variety of geographical features, systems and places

They can explain various ways in which places are linked and the impact such links have on people and environments

They can make connections between different geographical phenomena they have studied.

Be able, with increasing independence, to choose and use a wide range of data to help investigate, interpret, make judgements and draw conclusions about geographical questions, issues and problems.

Express and engage with different points of view about these.

End of KS4


Have a broader and deeper understanding of locational contexts, including greater awareness of the importance of scale and the concept of global.

Gain a deeper understanding of the processes that lead to geographical changes and the multivariate nature of human-physical relationships and interactions.

 Have a stronger focus on forming valid generalisations and abstractions, together with a growing awareness of the importance of theoretical perspectives and conceptual frameworks in geography

Be able to plan and undertake independent enquiry in which skills, knowledge and understanding are applied to investigate geographical questions.

Show competence in a range of intellectual and communication skills, including the formulation of arguments, that include elements of synthesis and evaluation of material.

End of KS5


A Level)

Have broad and deep understanding of locational contexts, places, processes and environments at all geographical scales - from local to global. A detailed understanding of the concept of global and global interactions.

Have a detailed understanding of place, understanding how the meanings and representations of place change and shape how we see the world.

Have a deep understanding of the processes in physical and human geography and their interconnected nature. Increased confidence in analysing the complexity of people - environmental interactions at all geographical scales. 

Have confidence in theoretical frameworks, developing a broad view so they can generalise and critique models that represent geographical processes, as well as applying these models to different contexts.

Have a good understanding of the ways in which values, attitudes and circumstances have an impact on the relationships between people, place and environment.

Be confident and competent in selecting, using and evaluating a range of quantitative and qualitative skills and approaches, and applying them. 

Students will be skilled at planning, undertaking and evaluating fieldwork in appropriate situations. They will be confident in using fieldwork as a tool to understand and generate new knowledge about the real world.

Students will have developed as critical and reflective learners, able to articulate opinions, suggest relevant new ideas and provide evidence argument in a range of situations, synthesising and evaluating material in depth.

Ultimately students will apply their substantive geographical knowledge, understanding, skills and approaches in a rigorous way to a range of geographical questions and issues, including those identified in fieldwork, recognising both the contributions and limitations of geography.