“You can travel the seas, poles and deserts and see nothing. To really understand the world you need to get under the skin of the people and places. In other words, learn about geography. I can’t imagine a subject more relevant in schools.”
Michael Palin, 2006
Dr Mary Rogers (Head of Department)
Mr David Donnan
Mrs Carol Johnston
Mrs Jan Smyth
Miss Sarah Stanley
- To provide a stimulating and supportive environment to foster our students’ interest and academic progress in Geography so that they can maximise their potential.
- Our students will develop a sense of place and an understanding of the concept of location.
- To promote an awareness of the environment through an understanding of processes, patterns, and relationships between people and their environments as they develop through time.
- Our students will have the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills through the study of Geography including analytical skills; fieldwork and information handling skills; ICT skills; decision-making skills; and literacy and numeracy skills.
- To encourage an understanding and appreciation in our students of different communities and cultures in order to promote respect for people who differ from themselves.
Key Stage 3
All students study geography for three periods per week. We introduce a wide range of geographical concepts and knowledge, and aim to develop key geographical skills.
In Year 8, the main focus is on an integrated study of the geography of the local area around Downpatrick. Students undertake field studies of the area around the school, and also visit Scrabo to investigate the geology and landscape.
In Year 9, we concentrate on aspects of physical geography and we encourage students to develop their ICT skills, for example in manipulating and analysing data collected from a river study in the Mournes.
In Year 10, the emphasis is on the unequal world and especially poverty in less developed countries and issues of deforestation. The students take part in a workshop run by Christian Aid to investigate the factors behind the unequal distribution of wealth.
Key Stage 4
GCSE students follow the CCEA specification. The course includes the study of physical processes; plate tectonics; ecosystems; the atmosphere; sustainable settlements; and population and development. The aim of the coursework component is to delimit the Central Business District of Downpatrick. Fieldwork is carried out in the summer term of Year 11 and students submit their final report by mid-November of Year 12.
At AS and A2 level students follow the CCEA specification. In Year 13 (AS), compulsory modules are studied and students undertake a fieldwork investigation at Murlough Nature Reserve. In Year 14 (A2), the Department offers optional modules in Human Geography covering The Impact of Population Change and Issues in Ethnic Diversity. In Physical Geography modules in Fluvial and Coastal Environments and The Dynamic Earth are followed. At AS and A2 the Department places emphasis on the acquisition of skills including decision-making; and students are strongly encouraged to attend the Geographical Association autumn lecture programme which supports the specification and allows students to widen their knowledge base.
Facilities & Resources
There are three specialist Geography rooms and the Department has access to Data Projectors and is in close proximity to the ICT suite which is also used frequently. We are well resourced with textbooks, including new books for the recently-introduced Key Stage 3 specification. In addition we produce our own materials (for example a booklet to cover the local Geography of the Downpatrick area in Year 8). At GCSE and AS level, the Department is equipped with CCEA textbooks to accompany the NI specification. The Department also has access to a good range of fieldwork equipment.
Achievements and Successes
Public Examinations Down High Geography students have achieved consistently good performance in public examinations at both GCSE and AS/A2 level, usually out-performing the Northern Ireland Grammar School average. The Department has had a number of students who have finished in the top three candidates of their year in Northern Ireland in both GCSE and A-Level, the most recent of which was Northern Ireland’s top A-Level geographer in 2007. Many of our students have gone on to study Geography at University, but also to read other disciplines, including Medicine, Dentistry, Speech Therapy, and Biological Sciences.
Geographical Association Worldwise Quiz The Department enters a team each year to the Worldwise Quiz: the Northern Ireland final is held at Queen’s University. Teams from Down High have a good record in this competition, winning it in 2004, 2005 and 2008.
Barcelona Trip In a joint venture between the Geography and Spanish Departments, more than thirty Years 10-11 students visited Barcelona and its environs in 2007 to develop their geographical knowledge and enhance their language skills. The trip included opportunities for students to investigate the urban redevelopment of the sea-front of Barcelona and to examine the ecology of the Ebro Delta. It is our intention to run this trip again in 2009.