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subject overview

In Geography, we look to expose our learners to environments, cultures & ideas dissimilar to their own. We also seek to make learning relevant to our students’ lives. We want our learners to end up with enhanced reading and writing skills and those of problem solving and synoptic thinking. The latter is needed in view of the many transformations our world will face in the coming years. Having a means to interpret events like Climate change, Brexit and Job market automation contributes to our learners’ economic and social well-being.

unit overview - autumn term 

Topic: Urban Issues & Challenges


*Cartographic skills relating to a variety of maps but especially urban OS maps.

*Graphical skills especially relating to variable urbanisation rates

*Numerical and statistical skills, again relating to urbanisation rates

*Formulate enquiry and argument


A growing percentage of the world’s population lives in urban areas.

Urban growth creates opportunities and challenges for cities in LICs and NEEs

Urban change in cities in the UK leads to a variety of social, economic and environmental opportunities and challenges

Urban sustainability requires management of resources and transport


Having taught the Changing Economic World unit in GCSE year 1 some of the foundational concepts of Human Geography will have been effectively conveyed. One such example is the demographic transition model that describes the shifts in population structure that happen alongside development. This is in turn built on within this unit as we cover how these factors pertain to urbanisation.

The choice of Rio De Janiero as a case study is made for several reasons. First, a number of our learners are familiar with the country Brazil through their football team and because of their hosting of the 2016 Olympics as well as the 2014 World Cup. Second, a large number of resources have been compiled on the city which offer suitable challenge for learners to apply their knowledge of human geography concepts. In particular the coverage of slums and their rehabilitation in light of the aforementioned hosting of major events offers lots of material for learners to understand an otherwise difficult sub topic.

We choose to study London as a UK city case study as feedback from examiners indicates candidates seem to perform better when their own city is chosen for study. Second, the relatively recent example of the Olympics’ regeneration (which the department has often used as a fieldwork site) provides fertile ground for analysis of urban regeneration (another high tariff sub topic). The unit finishes with the study of urban sustainability and this is collapsed into the larger London case study as everyday experience of transport, recycling, and green spaces (or lack thereof) aide effective understanding and as London is one of only a few UK cities with effectively integrated transport and a conscious ‘greening’ strategy this offers more unique material for learners to analyse the dimensions of this key topic.

unit overview - spring term 

Topic: Living World


*Cartographic skills relating to forest or desert cover as well as more general chloropleth maps showcasing major global biomes.

*Graphical skills especially relating to variable rates of deforestation or desertification.

*Numerical and statistical skills

*Formulate enquiry and argument especially where there is scope for synopticity, e.g. ‘trading off’ development and deforestation


Ecosystems exist at a range of scales and involve the interaction between biotic and abiotic components

Tropical rainforest ecosystems have a range of distinctive characteristics

Deforestation has economic and environmental impacts

Tropical rainforests need to be managed to be sustainable

Hot desert ecosystems have a range of distinctive characteristics

Development of hot desert environments creates opportunities and challenges

Areas on the fringe of hot deserts are at risk of desertification


This unit is delivered fairly late on in the course in part due to its potential for complimenting some fairly routine biology which, by this point of GCSE study - year 2, term 2 - will have been taught within Science. One such example which requires quite simple recall and retrieval practice is food chains and food webs which underlies the understanding of ecosystems.

The choice of Malaysia as a rainforest case study derives in part from some useful synoptic resources the department has formed over the years which effectively show the trade offs that NEEs like Malaysia need to make to capitalise on its’ potential palm oil wealth whilst also being attentive to its supposed global responsibilities as a location containing a major carbon sink.

Deserts offer a convenient counterpoint to the study of rainforests and this is because of the simple message that whilst a rainforest is an eminently useful biome and resource - albeit under threat - deserts are a difficult landscape for societies to develop around and their spread into semi desert areas poses further problems for African countries in particular, where the majority of desert fringes are found. As a number of development gap solutions such as intermediate technology have been conveyed in the earlier-delivered Changing Economic World unit, they can in turn be applied here as desertified and semi-desertified areas look to overcome this natural barrier to development.

unit overview - summer term 

Topic: Challenges of Resource Management


*Cartographic skills relating to both global and UK distribution of resources and their consumption

*Graphical skills especially relating to variable rates of demand and supply of resources

*Numerical and statistical skills

*Formulate enquiry and argument especially where there is scope for synopticity, e.g. as with the 2018 DME


Food, water and energy are fundamental to human development

The changing demand and provision of resources in the UK create opportunities and challenges

Demand for food resources is rising globally but supply can be insecure, which may lead to conflict

Different strategies can be used to increase food supply


This topic is delivered as the last unit for learners as its composition within exams rely on a number of low mark questions which nominally relate to the topic content but on closer inspection build on geographical, cartographical and numerical skills such as those listed above; in particular resource distribution and consumption maps. Many of these skills have been built into previous studies, most especially the map work and exam technique used through other human geography units.

The success of a previous cohort, who when studying for the DME/synoptic element of the 2018 exam required the manipulation of an AQA-issued pre-release, has left the department with a number of useful resources which assist in the study of water as a precious resource. Nevertheless, the choice to specialise in food is made as its study in this area seems a little more interesting and relatable for learners with topics such as famine and food chains - and by extension the problem posed by food miles - typically producing good levels of engagement from learners.

knowledge Organiser

A knowledge organiser is an important document that lists the important facts that learners should know by the end of a unit of work. It is important that learners can recall these facts easily, so that when they are answering challenging questions in their assessments and GCSE and A-Level exams, they are not wasting precious time in exams focusing on remembering simple facts, but making complex arguments, and calculations.

We encourage all pupils to use them by doing the following:

  • Quiz themselves at home, using the read, write, cover, check method.
  • Practise spelling key vocabulary
  • Further researching people, events and processes most relevant to the unit.