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Visionary geography

Teachers need their sights firmly set on the future, says Keith Grimwade

Create the future - don't just let it happen." This is the slogan of GeoVisions, a group set up to debate, raise issues, research and make proposals about the future of school geography. The Birmingham Development Education Centre began the project and the Geographical Association has carried it forward. Geographers working in early years through to higher education are involved.

Never has such a group been more needed. The past five years have seen an erosion of geography in the primary curriculum. Literacy, numeracy and citizenship are threatening geography's time allocation at key stage 3 and numbers at GCSE and A-level continue to decline. The Government's plan for extending the specialist schools initiative does not include the humanities.

There is a vital need to make the geography we teach relevant, stimulating and interesting. The national curriculum programmes of study do not reflect the changes that have taken place in the subject in the past 10 years. Too many potential geographers see little that is new or exciting in the GCSE and A-level specifications. It is alarming that a recent survey by Nottingham Trent University and the Office for National Statistics (TES, March 2) found religious education and geography to be students' least favourite subjects.

GeoVisions aims to address these concerns. The group is revising the Geographical Association's position statement. We are working with the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers and we will be consulting widely, t secure the support of all organisations with an interest in a vibrant school geography.

The group is working to establish a framework for teachers to be creative. There is flexibility in the national curriculum and this can be exploited. GCSE and A-level courses can be presented and taught in a fresh and attractive way. For example, nine GeoVisions teachers are using Best Practice Research Awards to investigate ways to scaffold children's thinking about places and issues in the future. Their work is on the GeoVisions area of the GA's website www.geography.org.uk .

In April, the GA is carrying out a follow-up to the 1995 and 1997 surveys of geography in secondary schools. The questionnaire will be widely distributed, and will also be available on the website. It focuses on information not available elsewhere, such as the impact of curriculum change on fieldwork provision, and will provide a secure evidence base for making a case for the subject. Please fill it in for your school.

We cannot leave the future to chance. Recent national strategies suggest that there is a real danger that geography could be squeezed out of the curriculum by default. We can make a major contribution to these strategies. However, we need to be proactive - we need to take the case for geography to the key decision-makers. Help to create the future by getting involved with the GA and the work of GeoVisions.

Keith Grimwade is acting senior adviser for Cambridgeshire LEA and chair of the education committee of the Geographical Association, 160 Solly Street, Sheffield S1 4BF. Tel: 0114 296 0088

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