Planning a Revised Key Stage 3 Curriculum

Article excerpt

Alan Kinder examines the new Programme of Study for KS3 geography as a framework to support curriculum making. He discusses how you might make use of the key concepts in planning and demonstrates the use of a planning grid.

Why revise your key stage 3 curriculum?

In September 2007, all secondary schools in England received revised key stage 3 Programmes of Study (PoS) from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). The PoS for geography is included here as a pull-out supplement, and the PoS and supporting guidance are also available on the internet ( curriculumreview/). This sets out the statutory framework for geography, for implementation from September 2008. In order to meet the requirements of the revised PoS, it is extremely likely that some changes will need to be made to your current key stage 3 provision.

Implications of the revised Programme of Study for your curriculum

Greater flexibility

The revised PoS are intended to introduce greater flexibility and allow the development of a 'local curriculum' within a national framework. QCA intends that there should be improved coherence across subjects with more interconnected learning, and an opportunity to personalise the curriculum by allowing students to 'dig deeper' on some parts of the curriculum, or 'linger longer' when more time is needed to secure the learning (QCA 2007). This flexibility should be seen as an opportunity to reinvigorate geography, not as a threat to its rigour. Any suggestion that the new PoS is somehow content-free, or that it implies less curriculum time, should be challenged robustly, if we are to avoid the 'curriculum vandalism' feared by some informed commentators (Roberts, 2006).

Newly-defined aims

The revised curriculum aims to develop, through all subjects:

* Successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve

* Confident individuals who lead safe and healthy lives

* Responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.

The relationship between these very broad aims and the subject of geography is explored in the web-based supporting guidance ( secondarycurriculumreview/subject/ks 3/geography/index.htm). With QCA now advising teachers to 'ask not what the curriculum can do for your subject, ask what your subject can do for the curriculum' (Waters, 2007), it is increasingly likely that school senior leadership teams will challenge departments to show how they contribute to the 'curriculum lenses' and 'curriculum dimensions' of this key stage (Figure 1).

The importance of geography statement

The importance statement has been extensively rewritten and can be a very powerful starting point for curriculum planning. Use it to ask some searching questions of your current curriculum (Figure 2).

Key concepts

A very significant change for many departments is the more explicit reference to the key concepts of the subject. Although not intended to be taught separately or directly, these ideas underpin the learning and bring coherence and meaning to the selected content. So, while a sequence of work entitled 'Scale' is to be discouraged, it is hoped that students will develop an understanding of the way in which scale influences our perception of all geographical phenomena, and how 'zooming in and out' using the geographical lens can enhance our understanding of the world.

For many teachers, the greater emphasis on concepts will provide the greatest challenge for curriculum planning.

Key processes

These are the skills and 'ways of working' at which we expect KS3 learners to become more adept. The importance of fieldwork is restated, as is the centrality of enquiry. Note also the appearance of graphicacy, which includes the handling of geographical data through the use of geographical information systems (GIS). GIS is increasingly being viewed as an entitlement for all students rather than an optional extra or curriculum enrichment opportunity. …