What the inspectors saw - Good practice by Ofsted

11th January 2013 at 00:00
Bringing geography to life: Greenbank High School

In brief

Greenbank High School in Merseyside uses case studies and field trips to increase pupils' desire to learn about geography. "The emphasis at this school is on learning geography to enjoy examination success rather than the other way around," assistant headteacher Neil Moore says.

The project

Ofsted says evidence nationally shows that the natural curiosity of pupils can be blunted, and the quality of their learning of geography distorted, if classroom techniques focus too heavily on dissecting an examination question.

At Greenbank High School, geography is taught as a discrete subject at key stage 3, with each year group having three hours of lessons a fortnight. Nearly 200 students go on to study it at KS4.

Fieldwork is undertaken in each year, ranging from a river study in Year 7 at the National Trust site at Carding Mill Valley (pictured right) to a Year 11 residential trip to the Lake District that studied the impact and management of tourism.

In the first of a series of lessons on economic activity, teachers used the Trafford Centre, a local shopping and entertainment complex, as a case study. But rather than sharing the lesson objectives immediately, the teacher challenged pupils to guess what they thought they might be, following this with a short video clip to stimulate their memories of the centre.

There was a rapid question-and-answer session about their own experiences at the centre, before pupils paired up to examine a regional and local map to determine why this site was chosen for the complex.

Their suggestions, completed on sticky notes, were attached to appropriate parts of the map. These ideas were then fed back through another question-and-answer session, and expanded through the use of Google Earth and an information sheet on local public transport links.

Basic map skills were not forgotten: pupils were asked to identify the direction from which the last photograph was taken.

They also considered the impact of the Trafford Centre on individuals and businesses.

The lesson concluded with a whole-class discussion in which pupils shared their ideas further, categorising their points as social, economic or environmental.

Greenbank has conducted other, similar case studies in geography, including a look at the quality of housing in Rio de Janeiro and how it affects the lives of the people who live there (KS4); coastal landform and erosion at Old Harry Rocks in Dorset (KS4); why companies are moving jobs to India (KS3); and assessing the impact of a volcanic eruption on people (KS3).

Signs of success

"Students studying geography consistently meet challenging targets at KS4. Engaging teaching, high-quality resources and effective summative and formative written feedback result in students' files and exercise books providing excellent revision resources," headteacher Ian Raikes says.

What the inspectors said

"Students are well taught which supports their accrual of knowledge and information about an issue or topic to stimulate discussion and develop understanding. Students build their understanding through a carefully constructed series of activities which enable them to summarise their thinking and ideas on a case study planning sheet ... As a consequence they answer examination questions very successfully."

Read the full Ofsted case study at bit.lyTvIxfU


Name: Greenbank High School

Location: Southport, Merseyside

Type: All-girls school

Pupils: 845

Age range: 11-16

Intake: A smaller than average secondary. It has a small proportion of pupils with special educational needs andor disabilities, from minority ethnic groups and those entitled to free school meals.

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