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'Seismic shift' on the horizon

A package of measures designed to bring about a "seismic shift" in the way geography is taught, and to stir enthusiasm among pupils, is being introduced by the Government.

The three-year aim is to halt the fall in numbers of pupils studying geography, and to help teachers with lessons on climate change, diversity and social cohesion.

An investment of pound;1.8 million will be put into extending the action plan for geography, launched two years ago after a series of reports criticised the quality of the subject in schools.

The intention of the plan is to make geography more relevant to pupils. A total of 1,000 schools have so far taken it up. A survey to assess its reception found that 90 per cent of teachers described it as good or excellent. The second phase will improve resources and build networks of support for teachers.

It is hoped that all schools will also benefit from an ambassadors programme, which places professional geographers in schools to demonstrate the subject's importance beyond the classroom.

The plan is also designed to support the new key stage 3 geography curriculum, starting in September, which aims to give teachers more flexibility to make the subject relevant to pupils' lives.

Dr Rita Gardner, director of the Royal Geographical Society, which is jointly running the action plan, said the announcement was a real boost to the subject. "We hear from teachers that the ambassadors are making geography interesting, and students are more aware of the opportunities the subject offers in terms of employment," she said.

A critical Ofsted report last year described geography as the worst taught subject in the curriculum. Evidence suggested that standards were falling.

Jim Knight, the schools minister, told a Geographical Association conference: "I want to see a seismic shift to reverse the declining numbers studying the subject.

"There are many excellent geography teachers. We are now giving them resources and flexibility in the curriculum to generate interest and enthusiasm."

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