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John Milton Academy Trust

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‘Geography students hold the key to our future’

Powerful Knowledge

Powerful knowledge at KS4 Geography is powerful because it provides the best understanding of the natural and social worlds that we have and helps us go beyond our individual experiences. At GCSE powerful knowledge is split into four categories: Living with the physical environment, challenges in the human environment, geographical applications and geographical skills. Living with the physical environment and challenges in the human environment, are split into sections, with each section focussing on a particular geographical theme. Living with the physical environment covers the powerful knowledge of: Tectonic hazards, weather hazards, climate change, tropical rainforests, hot deserts, coasts and rivers. Challenges in the human environment covers the powerful knowledge of: Urban issues and challenges, the changing economic world and resource management. Geographical applications sets out the requirements for fieldwork and issue evaluation and geographical applications set out the geographical skills that students are required to develop and demonstrate. Throughout the GCSE students are required to study case studies and examples. Case studies are broader in context and require greater breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding. Examples are more focussed on a specific event or situation, are smaller in scale and do not cover the same degree of content.


Literacy is embedded throughout KS4. It is common to see extended reading of articles in lessons, which are always teacher written. These articles focus on the underlying enquiry question of the lesson, subject specific vocabulary is highlighted in bold and the teacher will take a moment to pause and teach the meaning of the vocabulary at that time. What’s more, articles are read by students, (two sentences per students) to promote reading fluency. All articles are numbered along the side for the ease of tracking. Students will always engage with their articles through completion of comprehension questions (which are always written in full sentences) or an extended exam question. Teachers encourage and promote the use of extended writing in lessons and students will complete extended pieces in preparation for the 8 and 12 mark exam questions at the end of GCSE. Teachers use vocabulary grids with tiered vocabulary to structure students' responses  tier 1 (everyday), 2 (school wide) and 3 (subject specific) vocabulary. Student work is marked once per half term by the teacher and any extended piece of writing is peer/self marked by the student to ensure misconceptions are being addressed. Teachers will create structure strips to aid SEN and LPA  students, these are gradually taken away when writing improves. A full list of vocabulary is given to students at the start of their topic to embed understanding and knowledge organisers are used as a way of retaining knowledge into the long term memory, these knowledge organisers vocabulary. Students are signposted to additional readings throughout their course, particularly when a case study is involved. Teachers deep SPaG mark students work once a fortnight in Geography to bridge the SPaG gap and raise standards. Students at KS4 have access to a wide range of reading materials through our school library.

School Context

The geography department has recently changed specification to AQA. This exam specification provides students with a much wider scope of knowledge, that allows them to apply their geography to more current and worldwide events. That said, our new course enables students to apply their skills in a local context as well. We visit a coastal site for one day of our fieldwork and then an urban, regeneration site for our second day of fieldwork. This enables students to apply their learning to their local areas, for example, how their town centres are changing and why and how wider global processes such as climate change are shaping the coastline. We then apply their knowledge on a  much wider global scale in the classroom. Agriculture is interwoven throughout the GCSE spec and whilst not taught directly, students need to have prior knowledge of this content. At KS3 we have an entire module on agriculture that focuses on the students local area, as Suffolk is a predominantly rural county. This knowledge allows students to understand and apply previous knowledge to their GCSE. At GCSE we offer an overseas trip, this not only enhances wider cultural capital, but allows students to apply their geographical skills in the field, across the globe. Something, a large proportion of our students would not be able to access otherwise.


Students are assessed at the end of Year 11 through three exams. In order to prepare students for these examinations, three mocks take place. One at the end of Year 10, one in the autumn term of Y11 and the other in the spring term of Y11, these mocks are used to highlight gaps in learning and misconceptions. Students are then taken on a ‘walking talking’ mock where these gaps and exam techniques are addressed. Alongside mocks, students are summatively assessed at three points of the school year, these summative assessments are in the format of exam style papers and are kept in a blue ‘assessment’ folder alongside exercise books. The assessment at KS4 is that one piece of work is teacher marked every half term, this has to be an extended piece of writing, such as an exam question. Students are given clear pieces of  FIT feedback in line with the schools policy once these pieces have been marked. Teachers in Geography mark in red and students respond in purple. Teachers also deep SPaG mark the Geography books once a fortnight. Knowledge quizzes are used at suitable times with students to gauge progress, these are student marked in a formative manner and kept at the back of students' exercise books. Teachers use a wide range of retrieval practice throughout lessons, these take many formats and are designed to recall knowledge from previous lessons that help retain the knowledge into the long term memory. Students will self mark these pieces of formative assessment and there should be clear evidence of these within their exercise books as normal working practice.


Geography is one of the subjects that lends its transferable skills to many careers. As we teach through the specification students are signposted to different careers. For example, in our weather and climate unit we signpost how to become a meteorologist. In our tectonics unit, we signpost how to become a volcanologist. As a department we expose students to careers that they would not be aware of and that aren’t discussed freely at careers evenings. In the department we have a careers board to promote future job opportunities and we signpost students to this at every opportunity. Something we are beginning to look at is creating links with colleges and universities whereby our keen geographers can spend a day exploring settings that lend to their next steps. The UEA Geography conference is an example of one initiative we will launch in 2021.