Sir James Smith's School


Geography is the study of where places are, what they are like, what life is like in them and how and why they are changing. It can help you to:  

  • Gain a knowledge of the world and understand current events.
  • Appreciate different cultures in this country and abroad.
  • Become aware of physical and human environments.
  • Learn how to become a more sustainable individual.
  • Read and use maps, satellite images and atlases and improve your ICT skills.

You will enjoy the course if you want to study a subject that is relevant to your future, involves practical work outdoors and is studied through investigation not just reading and listening.  Geography is a very broad subject and important for many jobs; knowledge and skills learned in Geography can help you to understand topics in other subjects. It helps us to learn about our planet – how we use it and how we abuse it.

“Geography is the subject which holds the key to our future.” (Michael Palin) 

Key Stage 3

Students in Year 7, 8 and 9 study a wide variety of units throughout their Geography lessons. In each year students will receive 2 hours of Geography per week.

In Year 7, students focus on developing skills covered in primary school. The students practice navigation and map skills in units such as “Ray Mears” and “Festivals”. They begin to investigate global issues in units such as “Extreme Weather” and “Criminal Geography”. Toward the end of the year students turn their focus onto issues within developing countries – “Kenya” and “China”.

In Year 8, students begin to focus on the contemporary issues of “Sustainable Development” and “Tourism” in different countries around the world. There is also a focus on “Globalisation and Fair-trade”. Looking at the physical aspects of the course, Year 8 students investigate “River & Coastal Landscapes”, “Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tsunami’s” and “Antarctica”.

As students enter the last year of Key Stage 3, they practice skills that will be of use in their GCSE’s. Students investigate different “Rock Landscapes of the UK”, “Rural” and “Urban Environments” and undertake a personal investigation centred on the theme of “Ecosystems”. We finish the year off looking at a synoptic unit which requires students to make a decision based on a topical issue.

Each topic has been carefully selected to give our students the best experience before they are able to opt for the subject in Year 10 and 11 if they wish.

Throughout Key Stage 3 we are able to make excellent use of our local environment through field-visits. Each year, students complete a field-study and in the past two years our Key Stage 3 students have visited Widemouth Bay, The Eden Project and Perranporth. 

Students in Key Stage 3 will be assessed using STEPS.  To find out more about how this works, please click on the link below.  When the Powerpoint opens, if you would like to view as a Slideshow, select Slideshow from the top bar and then the From the beginning icon on the left hand side of the screen:

STEPS for Geography

Key Stage 4

At Sir James Smith’s students who opt to study Geography at GCSE follow the AQA syllabus. This is completed over two years and includes three examination papers at the end of the course. Students will attend 5 hours of lessons per fortnight over the two years.

In Year 10 students work through the physical geography units, worth 35% and sit a mock examination in the summer term of Year 10.

The fieldwork is carried out on the topic of coastal management and urban dereliction and includes a trip to Newquay to collect primary data. The fieldwork component forms part of Paper-3, which is worth 30% of the final GCSE.

In Year 11 students work through the human geography units, worth 35% and sit their second mock examination in the spring term of Year 11.

The three final exam exams are held in the summer term of Year 11.

Year 10:

  • The Challenge of Natural Hazards - Plate tectonics, earthquakes, tropical storms, UK extreme weather and climate change.
  • The Living World – local ecosystems, tropical rainforests and deserts.
  • Physical Landscapes of the UK – coastal processes and features, coastal erosion and management, fluvial processes & features, river erosion and management.

Year 11:

  • The Changing Economic World – Global Development Gap, Economic Development in Indonesia and the UK.
  • Urban Issues and Challenges – Urbanisation, Urban growth in Jakarta, Indonesia, Urban change in Plymouth and urban sustainability.
  • The Challenge of Resource Management – Overview of resources in the UK, global demand and security of water.

Facts and Figures:

  • Geographers use ICT for data collection through the Internet, data analysis through spreadsheets and presentation of data through graphics – all vital skills in commercial business.
  • Fieldwork is essential to Geography. It provides students with most of their ‘out of classroom’ learning experience and is an ideal setting to develop teamwork and leadership skills.
  • Over 350,000 students took GCSE Geography in 2017-2018, the most popular optional GCSE subject.
  • Geography has one of the highest rates of graduate employment: highly valued by employers for its combination of knowledge, understanding and training in the key skills.
  • Of those people who study Geography to A level and University, 25% go into administration and management careers, 17% financial work, 12% marketing, 7% manufacturing, 5% Armed Forces, police and fire, 4% environmental work, 4% social services and 2% tourism and leisure. . 

Please click on the following links to see the Programme of Study for the different Key Stages:


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