at Cockermouth School


In Geography, students study the world around them, investigating a broad range of topics, from urban growth in Brazil to the impact of earthquakes in Japan. Students learn about the physical and human geography processes that cause change, from the local to the global scale. Students acquire skills such as the use of maps and analysing data that help them to study places and the ways they can be managed sustainably. They are expected to apply the geographical concepts and their knowledge to new situations.

Students are encouraged to research topics and become independent learners – there are elements of project work from Years 7 to 13. They are encouraged to apply thinking skills to use evidence to reach conclusions and to be able to offer their own explanations. The curriculum also helps students to consider why interest groups may disagree about the management of the natural environment and urban areas.

Students carry out fieldwork which helps to bring the subject alive and aids their understanding. Cumbria offers many superb opportunities for students to undertake field studies on topics such as glaciation, tourism and coastal management. At A Level the department runs field trips abroad to places such as Italy and Iceland.

Key Stage 3

Year 7

In year 7 students get a broad introduction to some of the fundamental elements of geography, with a local and national focus. They study:

  • What is geography? which introduces the subject and its component parts as well as teaching basic atlas skills and ensuring students are familiar with concepts such as countries and continents, the world map and a map of the British Isles.
  • Rocks, soils and weathering which covers the different major rock types found in the UK, how they were formed and where they are found; what weathering is and how it affects the world around us, and different soil types and why soil is important.
  • Rivers and Flooding which includes the water cycle, what affects flood risk, the similarities and differences between flooding in Cockermouth and flooding in Bangladesh, and how flooding can be preventing. This unit of work also include infiltration fieldwork on the school site.
  • OS Map Skills which is an essential skill for students to have, both academically and in their wider lives. They will learn symbols, grid references, direction, distance and how to describe a route.
  • Settlements where students will learn how and why settlements growth – both now and in the past, how and why Cockermouth specifically has grown using map skills, and why the rise of out of town shopping centres has been both good and bad. Students will undertake a shopping survey as an in-class investigation.

Year 8

In year 8 students build upon what they have learnt in year 7 and start to investigate some more challenging concepts, with a wider focus considering not just the UK but further afield. They study:

  • Weather and Climate which starts with a look into what weather is and how it can be measured before moving onto consider the types of rainfall and why Cumbria gets so much rain compared to elsewhere in the country. They then move onto looking at what tropical storms are and the damage they can do. This unit of work includes microclimate fieldwork on the school site and introduces students to the use of GIS.
  • Europe is a topic that introduces students to geography outside of the UK. Students learn the political and physical geography of Europe. Study a country in detail and compare it to the UK, and look at the impacts of tourism and migration on different parts of Europe.
  • Reading the Landscape builds upon the knowledge students gained of map skills and processes in Year 7 to help them understand how rivers and glaciers have shaped Cumbria.
  • Coasts teaches the students the processes that operate on the UK’s coastline and the landforms they create. The unit also covers the dangers posed by coastal erosion and the different ways of preventing erosion, and the different viewpoints people have on using coastal defences. The highlight of the unit is the field trip to St Bees to see the processes in action.
  • Development looks at why there is a gap between the richest and the poorest countries in the world, and how this gap is narrowing.

Year 9

Students in year 9 continue to build their geographical understanding and start to look at the geography of places further away from the UK. They study:

  • Earthquakes and volcanoes which covers both the physical processes occurring and the effect these processes have on humans which includes why volcanoes and earthquakes pose different risks based on location and wealth. The students also spend several lessons looking at the causes, impacts and responses of the Boxing Day Tsunami.
  • Energy starts by looking at why the UK’s energy mix is changing before going onto look at different possible sources of our energy in the future e.g. wind, fracking and nuclear.
  • Polar Environments introduces students to the polar regions of the planet – their climates, geography and the differences between the Arctic and Antarctic. Students discuss the impact that climate change is having on the Polar Regions both positive and negative.
  • Ghana – where it is, its climate, physical and political geography, and development. Students explore what it is like for teenagers in Ghana and learn about the impact of rural to urban migration, and how communities are trying to improve the areas they live in.
  • The final unit prepares students for GCSE by looking at the UK landscape and how geology and processes work together to form different environments.

Students in KS3 are assessed in a range of ways, in line with school policy. Most units of work have an end of unit test, there are half-termly CTG tasks, and fieldwork write-ups are used as assessment where given. 

Key Stage 4

Students in KS4 follow the OCR Geography A: Geographical Themes specification.

Year 10

Year 10 focuses on the geography of the UK and learning enquiry (fieldwork) skills. They study:

  • Physical landscapes of the UK which looks at the different environments in the UK and their characteristics, and how rivers, coasts and weathering change the landscape creating both opportunities and challenges. There is a one-day fieldtrip to Whinlatter and St Bees to look at river and coastal processes.
  • People of the UK focuses on how and why the population in the UK is changing and the impacts that has, the different urban trends in the UK and the challenges and opportunities that presents, and the relationship the UK has with the rest of the world through trade. There is a one-day fieldtrip to Manchester to look at urban redevelopment and develop a case study of a major British city.
  • Environmental Challenges for the UK looks at how the UK’s position in the world can cause extreme weather and the impacts that has, including a detailed look at flooding in Cumbria. The topic then moves onto how humans alter than environment through water transfer schemes, farming and fishing before addressing the issues of the UK’s energy mix and discussing how the UK might find energy in the future.

Year 11

Year 11 moves away from the UK and looks at the world around us. Students study:

  • Ecosystems of the planet where students identify the characteristics of major global ecosystems and then look in detail at tropical rainforests and coral reefs, learning about their climate, the adaptions that plants and animals have to survive there, and the challenges and opportunities the ecosystems present.
  • People of the planet which looks at why global development today is uneven and looks in detail at how Ethiopia is developing economically. The unit then moves onto look at the pattern of urbanisation in the world and in particular the rapid urbanisation that is occurring in LIDCs. The students then spend a short amount of time looking at Curitiba in Brazil including the challenges it has and how they are being overcome sustainably.
  • Environmental threats to our planet looks at how the world’s climate has changed with time, what the causes of climate change are, how humans are influencing climate change and the consequences of human-mediated climate change.  The students then look at the global circulation of atmosphere and how this contributes to extreme weather events such as drought and tropical storms.

Students also learn a range of geographical skills throughout the course.

Students are assessed in a range of ways including end-of-unit tests, CTG tasks and exam questions.

Key Stage 5

Students in KS5 follow the OCR A-Level Geography specification. Students take the full A Level qualification with terminal exams at the end of year 13.

Year 12

  • Landscape systems looks at glaciated landscapes with a day’s fieldwork currently visiting Easedale Tarn.
  • Earth’s life support systems looks at the water and carbon cycles including how they work, why they are important, change over time and why they are linked. There is a day’s fieldwork currently to Buttermere.
  • Change Spaces; Making Places looks at people’s sense of place and how areas can be changed over time. There is are two fieldwork days as part of this topic, currently Glasgow and Carlisle. 
  • Trade in the contemporary world looks at the processes and flows that occur at the global level and how they influence people and places.
  • Powers and Borders looks and how we define states and nations, and the conflicts that can occur over sovereignty and territorial integrity.

After Christmas in year 12 students will start working on their independent investigation which is worth 20% of their final grade.

Year 13

In year 13 students study two topics in great detail as well as completing their independent investigation.

  • Exploring Oceans looks at both the physical processes that occur in oceans, as well as the opportunities and threats presenting by oceans to humans, the impact of pollution and climate change, and how socio-economic factors have influenced the use of oceans.
  • Disease Dilemmas looks at the patterns of disease and the different factors that influence these patterns, the link between disease and the level of economic development, how effectively we deal with communicable and non-communicable diseases, how we can predict and mitigate against disease and consider if disease can ever be fully eradicated.

Students also learn a range of geographical skills throughout the course. Students are assessed in a range of ways including progress tests, end-of-unit tests, CTG tasks, essays and exam questions.

Outside the classroom

Fieldwork is part of geographical studies in the school. Cockermouth’s situation gives easy access to a rich variety of contrasting environments including the Lake District and the Cumbrian coast. In addition, we have run overseas field trips for sixth form Geographers including Italy and Iceland.