We aim to enable students to understand the world around them. From Years 7 to 13, students study a range of geographical patterns, processes and issues. An enquiry based approach using a variety of up to date resources is a recurring theme, with the use of ICT encouraged throughout.

Since January 2004, the department has been lucky enough to possess an automated weather station, which records data every fifteen minutes before uploading it onto the school's website. This data is used to aid teaching at various stages in the curriculum.

Key Stage 3

Year 7

Pupils begin the year with an extended study of the United Kingdom in which basic geographical knowledge is learnt. There is consideration of regional differences within the UK. Atlas skills are integral to this unit of work.

Pupils then investigate global population distribution and change before developing their OS map skills. The final topic of the year is the climate where pupils describe and explain the variations in climate between different regions of the UK before investigating the variations in temperature around the school site.

Year 8

At Year 8, pupils begin to take a global view and after developing some basic knowledge of Europe and its climate, they investigate the various landscapes which have been created and modified by tectonic activity, erosion and weathering. They study these physical processes through the examples of Iceland, The Alps and Mount Vesuvius.

Pupils then embark on a study of Africa. They learn where many of the countries are located and then investigate globalisation with particular reference to the supply chain of mobile phones. They then consider why many people migrate from rural to urban areas. This is in the context of our partner school near Lake Victoria, Agoro Oyombe Secondary School.

A study of river and coastal processes and landforms precedes a day’s fieldwork at Woody Bay and Heddon’s Mouth on the North Devon coast.

Year 9

In Year 9, pupils learn some of the key human and physical processes in order to understand the modern world.

Pupils start off the year with a detailed study of the geography of conflict. The focus is the Middle East and the issues include the Arab Spring, oil, ethnic diversity, drought and climate change. The pupils use Google Earth to construct their own virtual tour of the region.

In the Spring Term, the pupils learn about the weather. Having learnt about air masses, depressions and high pressure systems, the pupils investigate the data recorded by the school’s automated weather station. Pupils complete their own enquiry and interrogate an extensive set of data to aid their investigation. Some of the pupils will be given the opportunity to visit the Met Office in Exeter.

After Easter, the pupils will begin to study material that will be required for their GCSE exams in Year 11.

GCSE Geography

About 80 percent of students in Years 10 and 11 study Geography at GCSE level each year. Over the past decade, students have achieved some remarkable exam results, with the vast majority achieving a C grade or better and a high percentage achieving A* or A grades.

Since September 2009 we have followed the OCR Specification ‘B’. The course assesses students’ geographical knowledge, understanding and skills in three ways:

  • Controlled assessment – worth 25% of the total marks;
  • Sustainable Decision Making Exercise (SDME) exam – worth 25% of the total marks;
  • Geographical Themes exam – worth 50% of the total marks.

Students at West Buckland usually complete their controlled assessment at the beginning of during Year 11. For students starting GCSE Geography from September 2012, both exams will be taken at the end of the course.

Controlled assessment

This is one submission:

A fieldwork investigation focusing on North Devon’s stunning coastline. Students spend the day investigating the coastal environment of Westward Ho! and Northam Burrows.

Sustainable Decision Making Exercise

This exam tests the students’ ability to make reasoned decisions using information from a resource booklet containing a variety of text, graphs, diagrams, photographs and maps.

The main theme of this module is ‘Sustainable Development,’ in other words the interaction between human activity and the surrounding environment (natural or human).

  • The topic will be taken from one of four main themes: Economic Development, Population and Settlement, Rivers and coasts, Natural Hazards.

Geographical Themes Exam

This is the traditional final exam which students take in the June of Year 11. It tests their knowledge and understanding of three of the four main themes (whichever are not examined by the SDME).

A Level Geography

About 30% of students who study Geography at GCSE opt to continue with the subject at AS-level. The vast majority then continue at A2-level.

Over the past decade, A-level geographers have recorded some excellent exam results. It is common for at least two-thirds of our students to achieve A or B grades.

AS level

The course is examined through two examinations, both of which are 1 hour 30 minutes and worth 50% of the total marks. In the physical geography paper topics cover physical processes and landforms in cold, river and coastal environments and their interaction with human activities in locations such as Snowdonia, Alaska, Antarctica, the USA, Dubai and North Devon.

The human geography paper covers topics such as tourism in the UK, Morocco, China and Snowdonia, urban growth in Manchester, Rio de Janeiro, London and Curitiba and rural change in Oxfordshire and Gwynedd.

During the Easter break, Year 12 students spend five days visiting Manchester and Snowdonia. In Manchester, students investigate urban change in Castlefield and Salford, followed by farming, tourism, coastal processes and glacial landscapes in Snowdonia. The aims of the trip, as well as quenching everyone's geographical thirst, is to help prepare students for their AS exams and enable them to learn new skills for the A2 courses.

A2 level

The first paper, 'Global Issues' examines students' understanding of change on a global scale. The examination lasts 2 hours 30 minutes and is worth 60% of the A2 marks.

In the physical geography of the Global Issues paper, students investigate the causes and impacts of, and human response to, earth hazards, including flooding, mass movements, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. Examples are drawn from all over the world, such as Venezuela, the UK, Southern Asia, Montserrat and Myanmar.

The human geography part of the Global Issues paper looks at development, inequalities and globalisation. 'Variations' in development between and within different countries, such as the UK and China are investigated, along with various ways in which different countries are interconnected: trade, aid and multinational companies.

The second paper, 'Geographical Skills', is worth 40% of the A2 marks and is examined in a 1 hour 30 minutes paper. The exam tests students' understanding of geographical skills such as enquiry, data sampling, graphing techniques and statistical analysis. Students also draw upon fieldwork investigations carried out at AS and A2 levels, including an enquiry into flooding in Barnstaple.