Thursday, 2 July 2020

OFQUAL Fieldwork Consultation

“Fieldwork is the best and most immediate means of bringing the two aspects of the subject (i.e. a body of knowledge and a distinctive method of study) together in the experience of the pupil. Therefore, fieldwork is a necessary part of geographical education; it is not an optional extra”  

(Bailey, 1974)

Over the years I've been part of many consultations and responses to consultations from the GA and also in a personal capacity. 
Over the years the GA and other bodies have had to fight to keep aspects of the subject, indeed the whole subject itself, on the curriculum.
Many consultations receive a low number of responses.
This often plays to those who want to skew the result in a particular way by saying "look, there's no real opposition to this in the responses to the consultation".
OFQUAL has a consultation running until the 16th of July. TAKE PART!

This consultation is on the content and running of the 2021 Exams for GCSE, AS (which nobody really does anymore) and A levels. There are some suggested changes which are being consulted on.


Here is the bit that is important for us as geographers.

A look at the annex shows that the History GCSEs have had their content slimmed down - sometimes losing quite a lot of content, but Geography has just had the fieldwork element removed.

If fieldwork goes, then there is a great possibility that it will be lost forever, and if we have "done without it" the expectation will be that we can continue to "do without it".

The wording could perhaps be adapted so that the requirement to carry out fieldwork "beyond the school gates" is removed - there are options for fieldwork on the school grounds, or in the immediate area, or using secondary data more substantially. Or remove the requirement for it to be assessed in quite the way that it is currently, or perhaps as an alternative to a part of the course, that those schools who had already carried out fieldwork could opt for.

It is very important that fieldwork is retained. Remove other course content to free up time but keep one of the key elements of geographical study, and one which so many other former and indeed present Geographical Association Presidents have championed and fought for in decades past.
From Geoffrey Hutchings, to Patrick Bailey, to Nick Lapthorn and Gill Miller (and others) the GA has led on a whole range of fieldwork projects. The GA has a stategic partnership with the GA, showing the value placed on fieldwork. August 2015-16 saw the Year of Fieldwork.
During the summer the 2nd edition of my new book on 'Fieldwork through Enquiry' - a 2nd edition of the popular book co-written with John Widdowson will be published.

Virtual experiences are not fieldwork...
Chris Durbin's quote remains important here: "virtual fieldwork is like a virtual pint of beer~....

Add your voice to keep fieldwork.
For ideas for local and school-based fieldwork check out the GA's Geography from Home section of the website.

This blogpost represents my personal views.
The Geographical Association is also responding to the consultation and recommending to other geography teachers that they do the same.
Here's Alan Kinder's view in the TES

Thursday, 18 June 2020

In search of Moominland

"It was a land of lush meadows, dark woods and dazzling rivers, flanked on one side by “the Lonely Mountains” and on the other by cave-studded coves where “every wave that dies on the beach sings a little song to a shell.”

A lovely piece on Finland and the search for Moominland by Dan Roberts.

In the Economist's 1843 magazine section.

“I only want to live in peace, plant potatoes and dream,” Moomintroll

Monday, 15 June 2020

500 posts

Just passed 500 posts on this blog. It was created in 2007, ahead of the publication of my KS3 Toolkit book called "Look at it this Way" which had ideas for teaching about landscapes. I still use a few of the ideas in my own teaching. The book is still available to buy from the GA shop.
The blog has had almost 90 000 views which is OK for the length of time it's been around. Hope you've found some of the contents useful.

Geography SW has launched

A new website for those who are in the SW, and those who aren't.
Launched by Simon Ross, John Davidson and Emma Espley, and supported by a team of geographers including Harry West from UWE.
The site already includes resources for all key stages and also advice for those wanting to visit the SW, those studying at University, and teachers requiring CPD in the area. Plenty of links through to GA support materials and resources are included.

The site will continue to grow over time. There are already some interesting GCSE case studies added for example.
Of course, we could now have other groups of geographers stepping up to produce similar portals for other parts of the country.

Guidance on how to contribute to the site is here. This could be a way for those who want to share their work and ideas to have them publicised so that others can easily access them.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Slow Ways - logo design competition

Earlier in the year, I joined the team of people who has been creating Slow Ways routes: walking routes to connect up the UK's towns and cities and other large population centres. These follow public footpaths and bridle ways and avoid busy roads.

The idea is another initiative from Daniel Raven Ellison.
The project now needs a logo.

The Slow Ways will be a network of 7,000 walking routes that connect Great Britain’s towns and cities as well as thousands of villages. People will be able to use the Slow Ways to walk between neighbouring settlements or daisy-chain them for longer journeys.
The first draft of the Slow Ways routes have been imagined and created in lockdown by hundreds of volunteers from across the country.
We now need a strong visual identity for the Slow Ways. In the future this might be used on signage, waymarkers and maps. For now, it will be used on the website we are creating as well as t-shirts, posters and in other places.
That’s why we’re organising this competition. We’re looking for a strong symbol for the Slow Ways that will give them a clear identity. You can see some examples of symbols used on trails around the world on this Twitter thread.

We are looking for a symbol that:
  • is a snail or snail inspired
  • is clear, bold and timeless
  • can be stencilled
  • can be easily adapted to one colour, but you can be as colourful as you like
  • would look good big or small, on a map, waymarker, sign, pin-badge, t-shirt or poster

A snail was suggested by a Slow Ways volunteer and this has turned into a much-loved idea. Snails are slow and humble explorers that carry their homes on their backs, leave trails, are found nearly everywhere and, unknowingly, will actually share the Slow Ways with us. They also have a very distinctive and identifiable shape.

As well as having their symbol used for the Slow Ways, there will be a prize of £250 for the artist(s) of the winning design.

A judging panel will shortlist designs and pick the final winner. The panel will be made up of volunteers who have helped to draft the Slow Ways network and relevant experts.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

IB DP Webinars on 'Place'

During this term of lock down, Richard Allaway and Matt Podbury have been doing a double act to support the global IB DP community.
Think 'Reeves and Mortimer' rather than "Laurel and Hardy'....

Richard's site: Geography all the Way has a fantastic range of materials for teaching a whole range of age groups. Most areas of the site, which has built up over many years, remains free, and the IB area is one of the few areas that is subscription based, but well worth the small amount to gain access - think how much money you're saving by not using glue sticks, photocopier etc.

Similarly Matt Podbury has a wonderful site: GeographyPods which is largely free, but has a relatively new IB area which is behind a paywall to help support the development of further new materials for the wider teaching community.
Both sites are well worth paying the small subscription fee from departmental budgets.

You can watch a repeat of each webinar on this link here. 
You will also see that there are links to the earlier webinars and associated references.

It was good to see so many people joining in. I managed to speak to colleagues from France, Switzerland, Guernsey, UK, Brazil, Poland, Canada, Qatar, North Cyprus, Hong Kong, Singapore, Netherlands, Philippines, Cambodia, Norway, Switzerland, Ghana, India, Poland and Kazakhastan.

For ease, here's the first run through of the slide deck, which I think was the best one.
I didn't realise I'd be seen alongside the slides on the recording so excuse any gurning...

Feedback welcome.

The Slides themselves can be viewed here.

Full disclosure: as I contributed resources / ideas to both sites, Rich and Matt have kindly given me a free subscription to access their sites, which has allowed me to see their contents and comment on their usefulness for IB colleagues.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Aftenlandet ('Evening Land')

Never seen this before until it appeared on a Facebook group earlier.
Jan Garbarek and Mari Boine with a piece of music from Jan's 'Visible World'
Powerful Sami singing and the Norwegian landscape along with Jan's Sax...

Apparently made for the Winter Olympics.

AFTENLANDET (the Evening Land) by Erik Poppe. (1994) Music by Jan Garbarek and Mari Boine. from Erik Poppe on Vimeo.
Made by comission for NRK and the Winter Olympics in 1994. Scripted and directed by Erik Poppe. Music written and performed by Jan Garbarek and Mari Boine.

Sunday, 3 May 2020


A lovely poem... by Elizabeth Bishop.

The beach hisses like fat, On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water comes and goes
and glazes over his dark and brittle feet.
He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.
-- Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them,
where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains 
rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,
he stares at the dragging grains.

Michael Palin on post-Corona travel

Michael Palin was on the Andrew Marr Show this morning.

He was asked about what travelling might be like in the future as we come out of lockdown and lose our holidays. How should we cope with that.

"I think you can travel less and travel better.
If we have to be confined to travelling in the UK, it's not a bad place to travel - there are all sorts of wonderful places - and different landscapes and different sorts of atmospheres - Northern Scotland, Cornwall.
Go to places and learn more about them, enjoy them more.
Find out more about your own country.
It's going to be very difficult for people right across the world to actually travel again as we did before until we find a vaccine. Nobody is going to pack people into aeroplanes as they did before.
No cheap and cheerful flights around the world.
It's going to be very difficult to see the rest of the world. So narrow your horizons is not necessarily a bad thing.
Look more carefully
Look more thoroughly
Learn to enjoy your own country. 
Travelling is not necessarily as exotic - it can be local but can still be as interesting and inspirational."

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Matterhorn - illuminated

For the last few weeks, the Matterhorn has been illuminated each night with the flag of a different European country, or Swiss Canton, or occasionally messages of solidarity with other countries, or a reminder to #stayathome

Last night it was the turn of the United Kingdom.

Images can be used as long as you follow the terms which are outlined when you download one from the site.

© Light Art by Gerry Hofstetter / Foto Gabriel Perren

Must be a fairly powerful projector...


Literary Landscapes: maps from fiction


This exhibition took place in 2015, but is available virtually.

Maps of imaginary places have accompanied literature for centuries. 
Visualizing the fanciful worlds described in works of fiction sets the stage for events taking place in a story, and often provides insight into the characters themselves. 
In this exhibition of forty items, visitors will discover maps from a variety of fictional genres, learn how authors create imaginary worlds, and appreciate why descriptive geography is essential to the story. People and creatures, even those who exist only in tales, are related to place, and maps of their imaginary worlds allow readers to be transported into the geography of fantasy.

And this is just one of several exhibitions which can be visited virtually at the same venue.

This one on Geography in the Classroom is particularly good.
I like the look of this game
Loto des 5 parties du monde

Thanks to David Cooper for the tipoff.

Sleep - a landscape for the sleeping mind to inhabit...

I have this on my iPhone at low volume every night, and now it is being broadcast live this evening through until tomorrow.
An 8 hour instrumental piece...
"...made as a kind of landscape for the sleeping mind to inhabit..."

Radio 3 link here. It's a beautiful relaxation, and when I wake part way through the night I am then able to go back quickly....

Friday, 27 March 2020

Geograph - now available in Welsh

The Geograph project has appeared here numerous times over the years. It played a big part in my first trip up to the SAGT Conference.

When it was first launched, I publicised it over on GeographyPages and contributed some early images of the Norfolk area and bagged a few squares along the coast.

The Geograph Project Ltd is a small national charity – an online community and project that maps the British Isles with photographs and information, “to advance the education of the public in geography and heritage”. They have over 6 million moderated, geo-located and dated images on www, , made available through a Creative Commons Licence.

Many people use the website to learn about where they live or areas they might visit.
Don't forget that there is also a schools area providing some activities and games that can be played to explore the millions of images.

After a lot of hard work, the site has been translated into Welsh.

The Schools Area is also now available in Welsh.
Take a look if you haven't been before, or haven't been for a while.
The site is supported by the Ordnance Survey.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Geographical Association website now free access for the next three months

Work has been going on behind the scenes to make this happen for the last few days and earlier today the necessary changes to the website were made for open access to the GA website to be enabled.

There are numerous resources on here which non-members will not have been aware of.
The work that we did for the Action Plan for Geography had to be made freely available, but a great deal of extra resources are provided on the website behind the members' paywall.

I am very pleased to say that I had a part in quite a few of them during my time working for the Association, and before and since, including numerous resources, teacher support and CPD courses.

I am also currently working on some extra guidance for teachers and resources which I hope will be added to the site in time for the Summer term, when we shall still probably be locked down.

Please consider joining the GA during the next six months or so

If you think, for example about the amount of photocopying, green pens and Pritt sticks youll save on that makes sense. Also think of your personal commuting costs, Costa coffees and other things you are going to be saving by working from home too.

Perhaps order something from the shop too. The new digital fieldwork series are available as instant downloads.

My new book Fieldwork book with John Widdowson was due to be available but that won't happen for a while now.