Benchmark expectations

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How do the three aspects of pupils’ achievement in geography develop across the key stages from age 5 to 14 years? Geography teachers need a clear view of what they expect students to achieve. The GA has written age-related benchmark expectations (7, 9, 11 and 14 years) that provide a way to map out progression when planning. They can help promote a shared understanding and a common language about achievement in geography. This national framework enables teachers to make end of key stage judgements about pupil attainments. They have also been linked to the GCSE criteria. They can be downloaded here.

The benchmark expectations can be used to inform your understanding of progression and expectations in geography when planning, and provide guidance in writing mark schemes. Their main use is to underpin long and medium term judgements of pupils’ attainment. Judgements could be expressed and recorded as, ‘working towards’ ‘meeting’ and ‘exceeding’ the expectations for their age or whatever system is in place in your school. They can be used or modified to set standards in your school, and share with parents/pupils. The benchmarks can be adapted to show expectations for each year group, e.g. ‘an expert geographer in year 5 knows…’ and personalised for your school, by relating them to your curriculum plan, e.g. by adding specific places, themes and skills. The benchmark expectations are of no use in day-to-day assessment as they describe the big picture of progress over a key stage.

The following table describes how the benchmark expectations can be used in the assessment process.

Click on the table to download a PowerPoint version.

Using the benchmark expectations

Teachers can then begin to plan an engaging curriculum which allows pupils to progress by providing opportunities to revisit the elements of the benchmark expectations and build on previous achievements. It is frequently acknowledged that geography benefits from a spiral approach to the curriculum revisiting places and topics in ways that build depth of knowledge and understanding rather than a simple step-by-step process.

Curriculum planning has often focused more on sequencing the content to be covered and less on how pupils become better geographers. This can result in repetition of content rather than developing understanding of the knowledge and concepts of geography. So, to help students think geographically it is helpful to recognise the difference between progression, continuity and sequence, as explained in this article. Within this curriculum plan opportunities to assess should be built in. Assessment should not be seen as an add-on but a part of the planning process.

The benchmark expectations can be used to inform planning and set clear goals for pupils’ achievement and create assessment criteria in the individual teaching units. These won't use the same general or abstract language, but will contextualise the expectations into a mark scheme or assessment criteria which will make sense to pupils i.e. they will provide PITCH. This provides the basis of planning assessment opportunities and show how benchmark expectations develop in practice. These units were planned using the benchmark expectations, with examples of objectives and assessment criteria:

Linking three aspects of achievement with the benchmarks

Click on the table to download a PowerPoint version.

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1 Comment

GA Member


Can you provide a FS to Year 6 scheme of work based on the 2014 Curriculum that I can use for my school, please?

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