Discover sense of place or be cast away

22nd February 2008 at 00:00

A back-to-maps approach has helped one independent boys' school almost treble pupil interest in GCSE geography.

Magdalen College School in Oxford teaches about one continent a term in key stage 3, starting with South America in Year 7 and moving through Europe, OceaniaAustralasia, Asia, Africa and North America by the end of Year 8. In Year 9, pupils learn about hazards ranging from hurricanes to crime, finishing with a look at Antarctica.

Each term begins with a blank map. The pupils' first task is to label and learn the countries, terrains, mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, cities and travel routes. They go on to investigate themes relevant to the continent, such as the mining industry in Africa.

This approach led 75 pupils to embark on geography GCSE in Year 10 last September, compared with around 30 before the programme began two years ago.

Nicholas Hewlett, head of geography at the school, said: "It's far more interesting for us to teach geography using this approach.

"Learning where countries and their capitals are is important and we ought to relish it."

Geography teachers at the school make sure their lessons are topical and their knowledge is up to date.

Mr Hewlett said: "Our Year 8s are studying Africa, so we adapted our study of the impact of colonialism to spend two weeks looking at the current situation in Kenya. Unless we update our teaching in this way, we will be seeing the death of geography."

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today