Expectations of greatness

Eleanor Rawling and John Westaway introduce new primary guidance.

The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority will shortly be making two new publications available to schools: Geography at Key Stage 2: Curriculum Planning Guidance for Teachers and Expectations in Geography at Key Stages 1 and 2. Both documents have been produced in response to findings from SCAA's 199596 national curriculum monitoring programme. Although most teachers of geography at key stages 1 and 2 welcomed the reduced requirements of the revised Order, many were still experiencing difficulty in planning the curriculum and few had used the level descriptions.

SCAA has been advised on the most appropriate content and format for these two publications by an ad hoc key stage 12 geography advisory group, comprising representatives from teachers, teacher educators, local education authority advisers and the Geographical Association.

In addition, large numbers of teachers and schools in seven different LEAs contributed to the exercise by providing examples of children's work and giving comment and advice on early drafts of both documents.

Geography at Key Stage 2: Curriculum Planning Guidance for Teachers is an eight-page leaflet, produced in a fold-out format designed for easy reference and display. It aims to clarify the meanings and intentions of the Order at key stage 2, and presents a sequence of curriculum planning which develops the approach already explained in Planning the Curriculum at Key Stages 1 and 2 (SCAA, 1995). Attention is drawn to the contribution of geography to whole-school planning and to approaches to developing geographical work in the long term (key stage), the medium term (unit of work) and the short term (lesson). There are worked examples of these three different levels of planning including lesson ideas about investigating rivers and local settlement. The final page presents a summary of good practice.

Although one page of this leaflet deals with assessment, there is no detailed analysis of the level descriptions or of their role in clarifying the standards expected in children's work. Instead there is reference to the other SCAA publication, Expectations in Geography at Key Stages 1 and 2, one of a series of booklets being prepared for all the non-core subjects. In each case, the approach builds on the model of the progression outlined in the corresponding key stage 3 exemplification booklet.

The Expectations booklets are designed to clarify expectations in order to assist teachers in planning, teaching and assessing work. Their publication does not herald any change in the statutory assessment requirements. At key stages 1 and 2, the statutory requirement remains the same: to report to parents once a year about the progress of their children in each national curriculum subject.

Section 1 of Expectations in Geography at Key Stages 1 and 2 explains how the programmes of study and level descriptions together highlight four aspects of geography in which children's progress can be identified. These are the same four aspects referred to in the key stage 3 exemplification: places, patterns and processes, environmental relationships and issues, geographical enquiry and skills. A chart presents the expectations for the majority of children in these four aspects by the end of Years 2, 4 and 6.

The other sections present examples of children's work to illustrate these expectations. Since for each of Years 2, 4 and 6 there are five or six pieces of work with written introductions and commentaries, these sections not only give an indication of the standards of work expected, but also provide helpful hints about the range and type of work suitable for children of these different ages. One piece of work, for instance, shows that aerial photographs can be a useful tool for investigating a locality; that Year 4 children can accurately relate features on a photograph and a plan, particularly if provided with some appropriately structured guidance; and that teacher-pupil dialogue is a valuable source of information about children's understanding and performance.

It is hoped that Expectations will help clarify progression and objectives and assist teachers to make better use of the level descriptions in planning and assessment. It can also form the basis for developing a school portfolio of children's work.

Both publications will be distributed in May and the documents will be previewed in Eleanor Rawling's lecture at the Geographical Association conference on April 2. Copies of Geography at Key Stage 2: Curriculum and Planning Guidance for Teachers will be available on the SCAA stand The authors are SCAA's professional officers in geography.

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