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John Milton Academy Trust

These schools are part of the John Milton Academy Trust. Click on the school's logo to visit their website.

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‘The study of geography is more than just memorizing places on a map. It’s about understanding the complexity of our world’

Powerful Knowledge

Throughout KS3 we predominantly teach through a spiralling curriculum. We feel that students are much more engaged when learning powerful knowledge through location as opposed to topic. We begin in year 7 with a Geographical skills unit, our rationale for this is that all students come up to us with differing base knowledge, alongside the fact that threshold knowledge  is  fundamental to the students geographical journey at Stowupland. These geographical skills are then interwoven throughout the remainder of KS3 where appropriate, for example when introducing a new continent we will ask students to find the coordinates using the latitude and longitude skills they already mastered in Year 7, not only does this provide sequencing, but also allows us to address misconceptions where necessary. These interwoven skills are signposted throughout our schemes of learning and are cleverly interwoven to ensure students retain the skill into their long term memory. Our second unit in Year 7 is Agriculture. The rationale for the study of agriculture is our local area. Stowupland is predominantly rural and all of our students are exposed to this landscape, we therefore feel that this is a fundamental unit of study. What’s more agricultural knowledge is interwoven across KS3-5 and students need to understand the threshold concepts that underpin the practice both locally and globally in order to access the material further along the course.

The remainder of our KS3 curriculum focuses on our spiralling approach, taught through the continents. This has been mapped in a way that shows progression over time. For example, students will study the different types of Geology in the UK in Year 7 (Europe) and will use this knowledge again in Year 8 when they explore how landslides occur in North America. They will then build upon this knowledge further when they study Ayer’s rock and its formation in Year 9 (Oceania). This is progressive and offers challenges as we journey from years 7-9. This is only one of countless  examples as we have designed our curriculum to offer progression and challenge in its entirety. What’s more, we have decided to leave out powerful knowledge that students will cover in GCSE Geography to limit repetition. We still equip students with the powerful knowledge and geographical skills they require to access GCSE, but do not simply teach a topic twice. At the end of Year 9 we finish with two separate units. The first is the sustainable development goals, where students produce enquiry based learning, this consolidates all prior learning and enables students to apply this powerful knowledge to current issues, offering alternatives and seeking solutions. Finally, we end our KS3 with a unit on the Anthropocene. Our KS3 curriculum is sequenced in a way that shows progression over time and enables us to teach through location and current world events, we use a selection of threshold concepts that underpin the concepts taught. For example, development, globalisation and sustainability are revisited throughout, in a progressive approach. The journey is different to the norm, but at Stowupland we believe our KS3 curriculum offers engagement, exposure and a broad based learning journey to all students whilst providing extensive challenge and opportunity for enrichment.


In the geography department literacy underpins our entire lesson structure and routine. We teach through extended articles which are written by the teacher, this allows us to produce a bespoke, tailored curriculum to our students. We highlight bold words to aid comprehension and use the article as a ‘working document’ whereby students will annotate as we read. Students are in the routine of reading two sentences per person and we ensure we use a  broad and varied set of geographical vocabulary throughout our articles. We follow a read/write structure in Geography and once students have read an article they will then apply their knowledge to a piece of extended writing. Extended writing is structured using our three tier vocabulary grids  tier 1 (everyday), 2 (school wide) and 3 (subject specific). Students enjoy writing in Geography and are exposed to a number of different teaching strategies to raise reading ages. All students receive a knowledge organiser within each topic they are studying and this includes subject specific vocabulary and definitions to aid understanding. Students books are deep SPaG marked once every fortnight to address misconceptions and raise standards. Word walls and Geographical vocabulary is displayed around our department to embed core knowledge into students. Teachers will interleave vocabulary and meanings in their retrieval practice throughout and at the start of lessons.

School Context

Students attend a rural school and as a result their exposure to the world is limited at best. Our spiralling curriculum offers students the opportunity to study geography in both a local and global context, exploring places that were non-existent in their minds. We begin by applying local contextual knowledge to our agricultural unit, which students can apply to their local area, this is then applied at a global context, through the study of farming practices overseas. Students study their first continent, Europe with a focus on the UK to begin on a more familiar and local scale before progressively working through the remaining six continents of the world. Throughout KS3 we are developing opportunities for students to complete fieldwork and create global links, for example, with a school in Africa. This will enable students to broaden their cultural capital and Geographical knowledge and apply the powerful knowledge in the classroom to the wider world in which they live.


Students are assessed summatively at three points in the academic year. This is done through an extended exam type assessment. Students will complete multiple choice, long answers and extended writing questions and given clear feedback and response time. All summative assessments are kept in blue folders alongside students' books throughout all of KS3  to elicit progress over time. Students books are marked formatively by teachers once a half term, in line with the schools policy. Teachers consistently mark the same piece and these are signposted in our schemes of learning. Teachers will provide students with clear FIT responses and students will have time in lessons to address misconceptions and allow them progress further in their learning, teacher’s mark in red pen and student responses are in purple. Teachers use retrieval practice regularly to embed powerful knowledge into students' long term memory and this is done through ‘do it now’ tasks and throughout lessons. Finally, at certain times in the schemes of learning (signposted) students complete knowledge quizzes, which are there to test powerful knowledge learnt and gauge progress. Students store these in their blue folders with their summative assessment. These knowledge quizzes are self marked by the student, if below 50% is achieved the student will return the following day after revising the gaps in their knowledge.


Throughout KS3 we embed careers into our lessons and signpost where applicable, this is currently done though teacher talk, but is beginning to be embedded into our schemes of learning. We aim to provide a wide scope of fieldwork at KS3, which is currently being redeveloped and this signposts students to careers in the field, for example, when we visit a local farm or take a trip to London. In year 9 students have a tailored ‘where can Geography take you’ lesson before they take their options. This proves popular and signposts various career opportunities in the Geography discipline. At year 9 options evening, careers are promoted through our department and stall. We have a careers display within the department that we promote throughout KS3. If a student signals a particular interest in a certain career, we provide advice and extra literature for that given career to inspire students. Throughout our Anthropocene unit we promote awareness of the different types of jobs being created due to our changing climate and infrastructure, allowing students to see how our employment industry is ever changing to meet global and current demand.