Make it real

7th November 2003 at 00:00
Geography deserves greater prominence in the primary curriculum, say Elaine Jackson and David Lambert

Excellence and Enjoyment: what a refreshing title for the DfES's primary strategy publication. Excellence in teaching and enjoyment in learning perfectly reflect the Geographical Association's priorities.

A broad and balanced curriculum is the precursor of a rich and enjoyable education which will prepare children for their future. Primary geography is a living medium through which the successes of the primary strategy can be developed. Applying mathematical and literacy skills to real contexts, for example, will strengthen them and give a real purpose and reason for learning. We also welcome the need to support leadership, especially at subject leader and classroom level. We agree that "every school should be part of a wider network".

So, why is there no reference to geography in particular, or to the humanities in general, in the entire document? Why are there are no case studies, no examples of good practice or of government initiatives based on geography or humanities?

The omission, we are told, is the result of a drafting "oversight"; it doesn't mean geography is excluded from the new strategy. But this is not how it feels: geography has been greatly weakened in recent years, not by design but by oversight.

Geography motivates and enthuses primary children. It affects everyone's life, every day. It's the air we breathe; the clothes we wear; the roads we travel on. It's why our ancestors lived in the valley instead of the mountains. Geography asks "What, where, why there and why care?" The children we teach (like the teachers who teach them) are local beings but they live in global places.

Primary geography promotes children's curiosity about the people and places in their world in new and exciting ways. Children enjoy the subject when it is taught enthusiastically and planned to include practical experiences, fieldwork and real issues. Good primary geography extends pupils' capacity to make reasoned moral judgments and their ability to justify their decisions and suggest appropriate responses to all kinds of issues - and it can certainly be fun.

This is why the Geographical Association gives priority to primary geography and campaigns to persuade policy makers and strategy managers that geography which is both excellent and enjoyable, is a key element in developing the primary curriculum.

Elaine Jackson is chair of the Geographical Association's primary and middle schools section committee and David Lambert is its chief executiveTel: 0114 296 0088www.geography.org.uk

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