TES Letters

2nd May 2014 at 01:00

Taking steps to prevent the erosion of geography

Academic and broadcaster Iain Stewart rightly recognises the vital need for pupils to draw on, and work across, geography as a holistic discipline ("How geography must adapt or die", 25 April). Few geographers, if any, would disagree. But a prerequisite for young people to do that well and substantively is for them to have a very good understanding of the human and physical geography processes that underpin social, economic and environmental change. For example, without a secure grounding in the hydrological cycle, plate tectonics and economic development, how can pupils meaningfully examine responses to flooding, earthquakes and poverty?

Good teachers recognise this already. However, geography in school has in recent years sometimes suffered from too superficial a coverage of the underpinning processes. The new curriculum seeks to provide that fundamental understanding and, at later stages, to support students in applying it so they gain a sound grasp of issues at the interface of people, places and environments, such as flooding, climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem changes. The new national curriculum specifically requires an understanding of the interaction between physical and human processes, and of the formation and use of landscapes, environments and resources. It is an approach that the Royal Geographical Society welcomes and supports.

In relation to concerns about the potential erosion of this subject, readers should be heartened to know that last year geography secured the largest proportional rise in numbers of entries of all major GCSE subjects; it is recruiting at a rate above the national average to degree courses; and geography graduates experience some of the lowest levels of graduate unemployment. Geography is, and continues to be, a robust and popular subject with growing recognition and influence in the 21st century.

Dr Rita Gardner
Director, Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers

Positive attitudes make numbers add up

It was very interesting to read Corinne Wolfe's article on the differing attitudes to mathematics in Asia and Britain ("Asia's mathematical advantage runs deep", Comment, 25 April).

To tackle this problem head on, at the Mathematics Mastery partnership we place great emphasis on the development of a growth mindset and positive attitudes. We have developed a research-based pedagogical approach to maths teaching that draws heavily on the success of Singapore and other Asian nations. Our approach doesn't just address pupil attitudes; it is equally as important for teachers to have a positive outlook.

One of the many pleasing aspects of working with our partner schools is seeing the impact of changing attitudes on teaching and learning. Although the problem you describe has existed in the UK for a long time, it is great to see that fear and negativity about maths can be overcome in just the same way as the challenges we all face when learning maths itself.

Ian Davies
Director of curriculum, Mathematics Mastery

Find your voice through song

With regard to "Hear me roar" ("Tales from new teachers", 25 April) and various other articles on projecting your voice, might I suggest that the best thing someone in the profession could do to solve the problem is to join their local choral society or choir? I have never had voice training but I have sung in many choirs and have never had a problem projecting my voice in such a small space as a classroom. Singing has many other benefits both physical and psychological, and your writer would also solve the problem of too-rapid delivery.

Paul Ingleton
Head of music, Borden Grammar School, Kent

An observation should be a conversation

We should not be grading lessons, teachers or teaching performance ("The longest day", Further, 25 April). Teachers who are observed need to have a professional dialogue with the observer in which only the strengths and weaknesses (if any) of the lesson are discussed and suggestions are made for future practice. Grades such as Sarah Simons' "high grade 2" (whatever that might mean) or overall judgements such as "outstanding", "good" or "inadequate" (whatever they might mean) should not be part of that dialogue.

Colin Richards
Former H M inspector, Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Libert, galit, fraternit

In respect of Gillian Harvey's percipient article "Flying the flag for teachers' prestige" (Comment, 11 April), the difference in teacher status between France and Britain could stem from the fact that in a republic, such as France, the value system is related to human endeavour, whereas in a trickle-down monarchy the value system is confused by notions of class.

Jim Cooke


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