Secondary Geography Quality Mark

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New Revised 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 GA members 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. Access is available upon request from

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.

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 ...'

The British School of Boston who were recently awarded the SGQM have created a website to help other schools through the application process. It contains schemes of work, homework assignments, examples of student work, photographs and application documents. Visit the WCL Geographers website

What is the nature of the award?

The Secondary Geography Quality Mark is awarded at two levels - The Quality Award itself and a higher 'Centre of Excellence Award' recognising the department's contribution to promoting quality geography beyond the school and into the local or regional education community.

How does a school go about gaining the award?

All the necessary documentation to get you started can be found on the Applying for the Award page - 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.

This enables the department to produce an action plan, which may stand alone, or preferably, complement their actions for the subject in the school improvement plan.

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 resubmission or registration for the next period is necessary after two years.

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

NB - registration will close when the full quota of schools for the period is filled.

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 - £300
  • Medium schools 750-1200 pupils - £400
  • Large schools >1200 pupils - £500

In many cases it should be possible to arrange this funding from the school inset budget, and payment may be made in installments.

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 - £200
  • Medium schools 750-1200 pupils - £280
  • Large schools >1200 pupils - £350

Here is what one adviser said about the SGQM: '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'.

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.

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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