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Joint exam plan to save subjects

Combined history and geography GCSE blueprint drawn up by teachers, reports Neal Smith

A GCSE combining history and geography is being devised as teachers fight to protect both subjects, The TES can reveal.

History and geography teachers have drawn up the plans because they are worried that, from next September, schools will no longer have to offer both.

The Historical Association and the Geographical Association are confident that they will persuade an exam board to take up their idea early in the New Year.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has held informal talks with the associations and has given them its backing "in principle".

The GCSE would be called "Making sense of the modern world".

It would split the teaching of geography and history to around two hours per subject per week, with examinations and coursework from each accounting for 50 per cent of the total marks.

The associations have denied that cutting the subject time in half for both subjects will amount to dumbing down, or that it could jeopardise students' chances of studying humanities at A-level.

"That is absolutely not the case," said Martin Roberts, of the Historical Association, a former headteacher who helped to draw up the qualification's blueprint.

"The hybrid GCSE will give students a broad and relevant look at the world they live in."

Mr Roberts said he was concerned about the changes to the curriculum next year, which will mean schools no longer having to offer both history and geography to 14-year-olds.

"Successive governments have not done anything significant to promote the humanities in the past 20 years, and these subjects have been squeezed to accommodate mathematics, English, science and information and communications technology.

"If this GCSE is adopted, at least it will mean that many pupils can get to experience both humanities. You don't necessarily need to study them at GCSE to go on to A-level, so spending less time on them would not jeopardise that option."

He said the GCSE could replace citizenship, which he said had had an at best "mixed" rate of success since its launch in September.

Dr David Lambert, chief executive of the Geographical Association, who helped devise the course, said: "At least through a combined humanities GCSE, pupils will get to learn about the history and the geography of this country and the world in which they are living."

Mr Roberts said that the associations are confident they will gain the backing of an exam board in the New Year. They will then open formal talks with the QCA.

A new geography qualification, which is effectively half a GCSE and is taken within one year, has been piloted in 18 schools since September, and a further 32 will join the pilot from September next year.

An equivalent qualification in history is expected to be piloted from next September.

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