Head of Department

Mr R A C WilliamsBSc, PGCE


Geography is the study of the earth’s landscape, people, places and environment. Simply put, it helps us to make sense of the issues affecting people and nature in the world around us. It is often seen as a unique bridging subject between the natural (physical geography) and the social sciences (human geography) in which students benefit from learning about how physical and human environments interact, how their lives are connected with other people and places, and why and how the world’s landscapes and societies are changing in the early part of the 21st century. The analytical skills it requires and the development of a sense of social and environmental responsibility are transferable to many different contexts, and geographers have a fine reputation of going on to be successful graduates and business leaders.

Geography at Cranleigh is a thriving subject. You will study a diverse range of contemporary issues and the processes that cause them: development and inequalities, the climate crisis, fluvial and tectonic hazards, the recent explosion in global tourism, and the issues affecting urban and rural communities in different parts of the world.


In the Fourth Form, pupils are introduced to geographical processes and skills initially through studying their local area, and through carrying out research into their place in the global community with respect to a variety of social and economic factors. They go on to look at three major themes in the year: the geography of China and its role in the 21st century; glaciation and extreme climatic events. The year finishes with a section designed to develop their ability to interpret maps, photographs, and other forms of data-presentation, so as best to prepare them for studying at GCSE.

In the Fifth Form students will study the AQA GCSE course. Throughout this course students will travel the world from their classroom, exploring case studies in the United Kingdom (UK), higher income countries (HICs), newly emerging economies (NEEs) and lower income countries (LICs).

This course retains a core of traditional geographical content, and also offers opportunities for pupils to study contemporary themes and events which will enable them to relate their learning to the world they live in, and to the events they experience. Topics of study include climate change, poverty, deprivation, global shifts in economic power and the challenge of sustainable resource use. Students are also encouraged to understand their role in society, by considering different viewpoints, values and attitudes.

The course is examined through three exam papers;

The Physical Geography paper is concerned with the dynamic nature of physical processes and systems, and human interaction with them in a variety of places and at a range of scales. The aims of this unit are to develop an understanding of the tectonic, geomorphological, biological and meteorological processes and features in different environments, and the need for management strategies governed by sustainability and consideration of the direct and indirect effects of human interaction with the Earth and the atmosphere.

The Human Geography paper is concerned with human processes, systems and outcomes and how these change both spatially and temporally. They are studied in a variety of places and at a range of scales and must include places in various states of economic development. The aims of this unit are to develop an understanding of the factors that produce a diverse variety of human environments; the dynamic nature of these environments that change over time and place; the need for sustainable management; and the areas of current and future challenge and opportunity for these environments.

The Geographical Applications paper is designed to be synoptic in that students will be required to draw together knowledge, understanding and skills from the full course of study. It is an opportunity for students to show their breadth of understanding and an evaluative appreciation of the interrelationships between different aspects of geographical study. This unit also incorporates fieldwork for which students need to undertake two geographical enquiries, each of which must include the use of primary data, collected as part of a fieldwork exercise. This is designed to develop evaluative skills through responding to questions based on their experiences and will examine a student’s ability to analytically reflect upon fieldwork conducted throughout the course.


Our course follows the OCR specification. The three examined papers are Physical Systems, Human Interactions, Geographical Debates as well as an assessed Independent Investigation worth 20% of the total A Level. September 2016 will be the start of teaching a new syllabus in Geography.

The Physical Systems paper allows the inter-relationships between the land, oceans and atmosphere to be explored, developing an understanding of the processes, characteristics and impacts on these landscapes and cycles, which shape them over time and create a number of issues when attempting to manage them. Learners will develop an understanding and appreciation of Landscape Systems, contextualised through coastal landscapes and Earth’s Life Support Systems, which encompasses the water and carbon cycles vital to our planet.

The Human Interactions component is built around two main topics, Global Connections and Changing Spaces; Making Places. It will examine how the world around us is shaped by humans, starting from the local and moving out to regional, national and international scales. Through examples and case studies learners will explore a variety of contrasting places. The concepts of inequality, interdependence, representation, identity and globalisation are particularly relevant to this component.

The Geographical Debates unit takes some of the most dynamic issues the planet faces in the 21st Century and encourages learners to engage with, reflect on and think critically about them. Chosen topic areas of Disease Dilemmas and Tectonic Hazards mean that the course should appeal to students with various interests. Disease Dilemmas covers the ideas such as that the causes of disease are often complex and the impacts even more so especially when dealing with these at epidemic and pandemic levels. Continued research into diseases and developments in pharmaceuticals and ‘our’ understanding of diseases offers opportunities to combat diseases, however unequal access to drugs and information has implications for communities and countries. Consequently, the global nature of some diseases in terms of their geographical spread and scale has encouraged international efforts to combat them. The Hazardous Earth unit explores the movement of the Earth’s land masses, from Pangaea to present day. Examination of hazardous events such as earthquakes and volcanoes demonstrates both the positive aspects of living in proximity to such features but also the increasing hazards as populations have grown and inhabited more of the Earth. Consequently, technology is ever improving our capacity to predict and mitigate against the vulnerability to the risk of tectonic hazard events which can leave communities and countries devastated.

The remaining section of the course will definitely involve a Personal Investigative component. This will allow students to undertake an independent investigation linked to any aspect of the specification to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. This component is designed to encourage learners to deepen their knowledge and understanding of their chosen topic whilst developing a number of geographical and study skills. This paper is hugely valuable for preparing students to study in higher education, regardless of the subject.


Field trips are essential to enhancing student’s geographical understanding of the world and play a large part in the departmental teaching. In the Fourth Form students undertake an afternoon of fieldwork in Guildford city centre in order to enhance their understanding of urban environments, but also to start the process of developing a greater understanding for fieldwork strategies and techniques.

GCSE students are required to undertake two days of fieldwork, one related to human geography, studying rural and urban form in Surrey and one related to the management of coastal environments on the south coast of West Sussex.

At A-Level fieldwork provision is a little more extensive, with two days in the summer term of the Lower Sixth examining a number of fieldwork strategies in order to prepare for a three-day residential course at Slapton Ley Field Study Centre, South Devon.

The department also offers some very popular, non-compulsory, experiential trips to Iceland and Morocco on a biennial cycle.

Latest Photos