Pupils desert geography lessons

GEOGRAPHY is the worst-taught subject in schools and leaves children with little understanding of the world around them, Ofsted said yesterday.

The problem was particularly acute in primary schools, where geography lessons have become “neglected and marginalised”. Children in secondary schools found lessons boring and irrelevant, leading an increasing number to abandon geography at the first opportunity. Time for lessons in some primary schools had been cut because teachers lacked ability in the subject and preferred to concentrate on “the teaching of other topics with which they are more confident”.

“Many pupils are entering secondary schools with limited experience of geography in primary school,” Ofsted’s report said. Inspections found that lessons for children aged 11-14, known as Key Stage 3, were “not sufficiently relevant or stimulating to capture pupils’ interest and persuade them to continue learning at examination level”.

Teachers had allowed the subject to stagnate in the early secondary years and had concentrated their efforts on students taking GCSE and A-level courses.

David Bell, the Chief Inspector of Schools in England, said that entries for GCSE geography had fallen by a third in the past eight years. This year 227,832 candidates took GCSE geography, 5,000 fewer than last year.

“We need to engage pupils more purposefully in geography and, most important of all, ensure that they enjoy it,” he said. “Water shortages, famine, migrations of people, disputes over oil, globalisation and debt are all major issues with which our world is grappling and this is the geography of today.”

He called for secondary schools to review the whole of their curriculum at Key Stage 3 so that pupils learnt to enjoy geography. An excessive concentration on drilling facts into pupils instead of developing their understanding and skills in the subject had contributed to geography’s declining popularity. Opportunities for pupils to go on fieldwork trips had also been reduced.

The chief inspector praised a new pilot GCSE course by the OCR examination board, which was not “overloaded” with content and allowed pupils the chance to express their own views on subjects.