Secondary Geography Quality Mark

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Secondary Geography Quality Mark Framework

The Secondary Geography Quality Mark (SGQM) is a framework that has been developed by the Geographical Association to enable subject leaders to raise the standards of geography in school, supporting the teaching of quality geography and promoting department leadership and management.

The framework process has been updated in the light of recent Ofsted guidance, Teacher Standards and National College of School Leadership advice. The SGQM is also now designed to link with the Global Learning Programme.

The GA is a partner in the Global Learning Programme

Schools can take advantage of the support on offer through the GLP to develop their expertise in curriculum - making; using geography to fuel pupil achievement. Schools wanting to further develop Global Learning can follow the Quality Mark ‘Next Steps’ to join the GLP in England as a Partner School, or provide evidence of good practice and impact to become a GLP Expert Centre. QM accreditation could also lead to recognition for teachers as GLP Lead Practitioners.

All registered schools have free access to a comprehensive set of documents on our SGQM VLE including the SGQM assessment criteria and exemplar materials to help you audit the quality of geography in your school and work towards a higher standard.

Your school can then choose to apply for the official SGQM award which recognises quality and progress in geography leadership, curriculum development, learning and teaching.

The SGQM Wales is also designed to link to the Global Learning Programme in Wales, view further information in English and Welsh.

Click here to see how schools exemplify and support quality global learning through the Geography Quality Marks.

Why your school should apply

Undertaking the Quality Mark engages all staff in the department in a process of reflection about how well the department is achieving its aims and where its priorities lie. The template is based on the whole school Self-Evaluation Form (SEF), well-honed by Ofsted, thus matching the generic SEF which each head teacher goes through annually in reviewing the school's work.

The SGQM framework and process is very suitable for Post 16 and sixth form colleges.

Nothing could be more relevant to a subject leader's consideration of how to act next, to improve his or her department. The whole team takes part in an ongoing process of curriculum review, identifying priorities for departmental CPD, sharing good practice around a framework for encouraging creative and critical thinking about curriculum making and developing a dynamic, relevant KS3-5.

Find out how to apply for the Secondary Geography Quality Mark

What teachers and advisers have said about the SGQM

'... Within my own department, the SGQM was both a fantastic CPD and self evaluation process. As a team we were able to reflect on and evaluate our current practice ...'

'... It's an audit - a mirror - a learning curve - and, if you can commit to the obvious time of reflection it takes to scrutinise your own department critically with colleagues, then you will come out of it the other end (much) clearer about what the department's areas for development might be, and able to prioritise from the list ...'

'This is self-run CPD par excellence, for evidence from training evaluations shows that the one-off day, run by 'no-matter-how-inspiring' a speaker, is generally found less effective as CPD than that where teachers themselves are the active participants, engaged in working on a relevant topic'.

How does a school go about gaining the award?

All the necessary documentation to get you started can be found below - full documentation is only available via the SGQM VLE once you have registered for the award. Your head of department must register for the appropriate cohort of the award scheme with the GA and pay the appropriate fee. You may begin working for the Quality Mark at any time.

Your subject leader and department complete a quick self-evaluation using the criteria to establish the level which best describes the quality of geography in your school. The assessment checklist will assist you with this.

Cross-reference the action plan which results from the self-assessment checklist with your Departmental Improvement Plan. Highlighting specific targets which relate specifically to the Quality Mark is a useful way of doing this.

Examples and evidence are selected to indicate how the department considers it is meeting the requirements. The department may take up to a year in which to develop the areas for the criteria they still need to meet, whilst of course, still maintaining those other standards they have reached. 


Centre of Excellence Status

The first level award is verified on the basis of the written evidence. To achieve 'Centre of Excellence' status, which recognises the department's contribution to quality geography beyond the school and into the local or regional education community, appropriate witness statements will be required. Download a list of possible routes towards Centre of Excellence status.

Further information about Centre of Excellent status is available on the password protected SGQM VLE - contact Julie Beattie to register.

Certificate and Logo

When an award has been achieved a certificate will be sent from the GA for display, along with a similar one for the subject leader to recognise their work. The school will also receive an electronic version of the SGQM logo for use on letter headings and websites etc.

The award is valid for three years and you will be contacted towards the end of this period with an invitation to re-submit.

Annual Deadlines

Register by: Submit evidence by: Moderation during: Notified of award by: Presented at GA Annual Conference:
31 Dec each year End of June each year July - August each year September each year April each year

GLP Partner schools have until the 31 January to register and pay using e-credits. Simply log-in on the GLP website to sign up now. Not a GLP Partner School? Go to the GLP website to find out more.

Before you apply

The registration deadline is 31 December each year

Before you apply for the award...

  • Take a look at the Timeline to see what you can be doing and when - this will help you plan the SGQM process.
  • Discuss with colleagues and your senior leadership team the implications of applying for the SGQM. You could use the Headteacher Letter. Gather what support you can, both in terms of finance and planning time, to help you through what is a sustained, collaborative reflective process.
  • Check on your school's membership status - your school must be a member of the GA when you register for the award. You can join online or by calling GA HQ on 0114 296 0088.
  • If you don't already have a copy, we recommend that you purchase the Secondary Geography Handbook, the essential guide to teaching geography in secondary schools.
  • Think about attending one of the GA's CPD courses for secondary teachers.
  • Ask your head if you can pay for a GA consultant to advise you prior to registration. The fee for a half day consultation is £400 plus travel expenses (full day £600 plus travel expenses). Contact Julie Beattie for a list of available consultants with whom you can personally arrange a visit.

Download the following documents to find out more about the award.

Use this form as part of your self evaluation process.

Use this letter to initiate a conversation with your headteacher about the benefits of the award to your department.

Your guide through the SGQM process from start to finish.

What will it cost?

In order to meet some of the costs of administration and moderation it is necessary to make a charge for departments undertaking the award on the following scale:

  • Small schools <750 pupils - £315
  • 6th Forms and Further Education colleges - £315
  • Medium schools 750-1200 pupils - £415
  • Large schools >1200 pupils - £515

The SGQM is suitable for 6th Form and Further Education colleges

Current Geographical Association membership is essential when applying for the SGQM. Once awarded, schools are also requested to maintain their GA membership for the three-year period that the SGQM is valid.

If you are a returning school please note that you be charged using the following scale:

  • Small schools <750 pupils - £220
  • 6th Forms and Further Education colleges - £220
  • Medium schools 750-1200 pupils - £290
  • Large schools >1200 pupils - £360

A department undertaking the process is well placed to argue the quality of the CPD and the impact on the quality of education in the department.

Further guidance

The following pages provide guidance on evidencing the SGQM:

Further guidance

Further guidance (extra - members' only)

A map of SGQM schools

View SGQM SCHOOLS in a larger map

Register Your Interest

If you wish to register your interest in the SGQM, fill in your name and email address on the form below and we'll contact you shortly.

Documents to help you plan, prepare and apply for the award, including the registration form, are available on the Applying for the Award page.

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