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The facts and the fiction;Subject of the Week - Geography

Jeremy Krause examines the impact of changes to the primary curriculum

Geography has not been removed from the key stage 1 and 2 curriculum. The Government's January letters to schools at no point suggested that this was the case. But the wording was unclear and this has led to hasty responses from some schools. This is an attempt to put the record straight.

* Any changes are initially for 1998-2000: the curriculum changes affecting geography announced in the Secretary of State's January 5 letter are "for two years from September 1998 until a revised national curriculum is brought in from September 2000".

* Geography is still a subject that schools will be expected to teach: "The statutory requirement for schools to provide a balanced and broadly-based curriculum would of course remain" (Chris Woodhead, January 13, 1998).

This point is further emphasised in the Office for Standards in Education leaflet "Changes to the National Curriculum in key stages 1 and 2"*: schools ... "will have greater flexibility to decide how to approach these non-core subjects" (March 1998).

* What if you are being inspected between now and August? Even Ofsted is aware of the need to take account of the fact that until August 1998 schools are working in a period leading up to "greater flexibility". Ofsted's guidance to its inspectors on the interpretation of the inspection framework in the light of the Government's new policies will be published this summer.

* What should you do now?

Don't panic. Take stock, take a deep breath. Make whole-school and staff decisions carefully and on the basis of reliable information.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority publication "Maintaining Breadth and Balance at Key Stages 1 and 2" out in MayJune, will give guidance to help schools to devise an appropriate curriculum. This is likely to include:

* a brief statement about the broad intentions of the non-core subjects (including geography) at that key stage; * the key parts of the subject that QCA wants covered; * options for modifying the scheme of work in the light of the above; * the expectations in terms of skills and understanding in the subject at the end of key stage 1 and 2.

In the meantime, seriously consider your geography curriculum. Is it broad and balanced? If so, what would you wish to retain for 1998 to 2000?

If not, what is missing? Would you consider that this is a major deficiency and still in need of attention even in the light of the changes ahead?

If some reduction in geography is planned, consider:

* retaining a cover of places, themes and skills; * ensuring pupils can investigate their own area and other places that offer a contrast; * introducing geographical content into literacy and numeracy programmes; * ensuring your geography teaching extends pupils' numeracy and literacy skills.

Carefully read documents such as those from the subject associations. Don't sit in isolation - talk to somebody!

* Copies from Ofsted: 0171 510 0180. Jeremy Krause is senior adviser for geography for Cheshire County Council and honorary secretary of the Geographical Association

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