Frequently asked questions

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When does the new curriculum begin?

The final version of the new national curriculum is now available for first teaching in schools from September 2014. But as the current curriculum has been disapplied, schools can start making changes now.

What are the aims of the national curriculum?

Extract from the 2014 National Curriculum: "The national curriculum provides pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge that they need to be educated citizens. It introduces pupils to the best that has been thought and said; and helps engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.

"The national curriculum is just one element in the education of every child. There is time and space in the school day and in each week, term and year to range beyond the national curriculum specifications. The national curriculum provides an outline of core knowledge around which teachers can develop exciting and stimulating lessons to promote the development of pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills as part of the wider school curriculum."

What is the new 'purpose of study'

Extract from the 2014 National Curriculum: "A high-quality geography education should inspire in pupils a curiosity and fascination about the world and its people that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Teaching should equip pupils with knowledge about diverse places, people, resources and natural and human environments, together with a deep understanding of the Earth’s key physical and human processes. As pupils progress, their growing knowledge about the world should help them to deepen their understanding of the interaction between physical and human processes, and of the formation and use of landscapes and environments. Geographical knowledge, understanding and skills provide the framework and approaches that explain how the Earth’s features at different scales are shaped, interconnected and change over time."

What freedom do I have? How much of the curriculum can be local?

The 2010 White Paper The Importance of Teaching, stated that 'The National Curriculum should set out clearly the core knowledge and understanding that all children should be expected to acquire in the course of their schooling' The essential core is therefore not all that pupils will be taught. The diagram below shows the relationship between the subject core and the curriculum taught in two different schools:

How will the GA help me prepare to teach the new curriculum?

This website section will support all teachers of geography in interpreting the national curriculum. It will provide professional guidance, support and links to resources and publications on a range of aspects including; reviewing and evaluating current practice, identifying and teaching new content, knowledge and understanding, teaching approaches and resources and managing change. We will do this through journals and publications, website materials and resources and other forms of CPD including conference, face-to-face events, online CPD and discussions, a variety of network meetings based around branches, Quality Mark schools and online meetings.

Who should teach the new curriculum?

These changes apply to maintained schools in England only; NOT academies or free schools.

What is happening in Wales?

Wales is also embarking on its own review of the national curriculum. The national consultation is due to be launched soon. The GA’s Welsh Special Interest Group will make significant representation to the Review in due course.

What are the key changes?

This is a new approach to a national curriculum document. It sets out only the core knowledge that students should acquire. It does not specify approaches to teaching, nor explain how to put the content into a teaching and learning sequence. There is renewed emphasis on locational and place knowledge, human and physical processes and some technical procedures, such as using grid references. There is also a renewed commitment to fieldwork and the use of maps, as well as written communication.

The Level Descriptors which made up the Attainment Target have been removed. Schools are free to devise their own curriculum and assessment system.

How is assessment changing?

The Attainment Target for geography now requires simply that students will "know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study’, which reflects the Department for Education view that schools should be ‘free to devise their own curriculum and assessment system." (

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