Ofsted alarmed at ‘boring’ geography

Education watchdog Ofsted has raised concerns about declining levels of interest in geography.

A report published today says too much teaching and learning of the subject is mediocre, leading many pupils to view geography as “boring” and “irrelevant”.

Lower achievement in the subject is a worrying result given the growing importance of issues like climate change, sustainability and globalisation, it concludes.

Chief inspector for education, children’s services and skills Christine Gilbert said the subject was at a “crucial period in its development”.

“More needs to be done to make the subject relevant and more engaging for pupils, particularly at key stage three,” she commented.

“However, it is very encouraging to find that in those primary schools where geography is well-managed and well-taught, the subject thrives and contributes positively to children’s development.”

The report found fieldwork was key to engaging children’s interest but said many schools were deterred from conducting expeditions because of concerns about budgets, health and safety and curriculum time.

It warned the “global dimension” was being overlooked in most schools, adding: “Frequently, insufficient connections are made between the wider curriculum and the geography curriculum to reinforce pupils’ understanding of issues such as global citizenship, diversity, human rights and sustainable development.”

Responding to the report, schools minister Jim Knight said geography was a changing subject which would be more popular in the future.

Pointing out that the survey was carried out before 2007, he added: “Last year we made radical reforms to the geography curriculum to make it more engaging and more relevant to young people’s lives – bringing in topics like environmental change and sustainable development, but keeping the essential basics of maps and globes and atlases.”