Put Geography on the Map; EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

Article excerpt

Byline: FRED REDWOOD

HEAD teachers might deny it, but there's a hierarchy of subjects in secondary schools, lead by English, science and maths - the subjects in the headlines when exam results are published.

Others, such as modern languages and history vie for the middle ground.

Close to the bottom comes geography - often regarded a 'filler' on the timetable. But if Daniel Raven-Ellison, 26, head of geography at Langtree School, Woodcote, Reading, has his way that will change.

Indignant that his subject is undervalued, Mr Raven-Ellison is leading a campaign to promote geography throughout the country's schools. 'Geography should be the focal point of the curriculum,' he says, 'the glue that binds the other subjects together - encapsulating science, information technology and an appreciation of the cultures of other lands. It also encourages children to be decision-makers.' But Mr Raven-Ellison has done more than canvas support for geography in his own school. He entered and won a competition run by BBC Radio, and his prize was airtime to publicise his cause while editing Radio 4's Today programme yesterday.

Mr Raven-Ellison has also solicited signatures from 100 leading geography academics in support of a letter to Tessa Jowell outlining his beliefs.

He has set up a website (www.

passion4geography.co.uk) and a web-based competition between the UK and U.S. challenging entrants to find places on a map. It might sound light-hearted but Raven-Ellison isn't joking. 'How can people begin to discuss the complexities of, say, the Middle East if they can't find countries like Iraq and Iran on a map?' he says.

'That's a perfect illustration of why geography is important - it enables children to understand the front pages of our newspapers.' Mr Raven-Ellison has identified specific ways in which geography gets a bad deal in schools.

'Research shows that 80 per cent of geography teachers for Key Stage 3 (11 to 14 year-olds) are non-specialists, which is at the root of the problem,' he says. …