Geography & Modern Studies
A comprehensive understanding of the natural and physical world has never been more important.
Our Geography and Modern Studies Department provides pupils with a detailed understanding of the ways in which people and the environment interact in response to physical and human processes on local, national and global scales.
Geography pupils gain a detailed understanding of the changing world in a balanced, critical and sympathetic manner, embracing a geographical perspective on environmental and social issues and developing an interest in, and concern for, the natural world.
Modern Studies allows learners the opportunity to develop their knowledge and understanding of contemporary issues, raising awareness of crucial political and social phenomena that they will meet inevitably encounter throughout their lives. Drawing on the social sciences of politics, sociology and international relations, the subject enables pupils to engage as active and informed members of society while developing a greater understanding of their place in the world.
Geography and Modern Studies pupils enjoy the chance to truly immerse themselves in their subjects through a number of exciting trips, including a biennial excursion for National 5 geographers to study the geological features of Iceland and regular visits to both the Scottish and UK Parliaments for those taking part in Modern Studies.
Transitus acts as an introductory year, with a focus on topics such as 'Mapping Skills' and 'Weather' in Geography and 'Contemporary News' in Modern Studies. Pupils are encouraged to take an active interest in current affairs in order to maximise their knowledge and enjoyment of Modern Studies.
The First Year Geography curriculum builds upon this in the study of 'Inhospitable Climates' and 'Coastal Landscapes', including fieldwork that adds to pupils' understanding of important contemporary issues in geography, while Modern Studies pupils start delving into more complex and increasingly global political and social issues such as human rights and voting systems.
Second Year Geography sees pupils study the causes and impact of 'Natural Hazards', before focusing on 'Global Development' and strategies to reduce the development gap, including the concept of 'Fair Trade'. In Modern Studies, Second Year pupils focus on the subject, 'Contemporary Issues in China'.
Following this introductory stage, a significant number of pupils choose to take on the challenge of studying Geography and Modern Studies to National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher level. These courses add depth and nuance, with learners looking at increasingly topical and challenging issues that affect our current lives, requiring high levels of focus and maturity from all pupils choosing to go down this path.
The National 5 course encourages a deeper understanding of geographical issues in the topics, 'Physical Environment', 'Human Environment' and 'Global Issues'. This includes two days of fieldwork activities throughout Third and Fourth Year that sees pupils explore Loch Lomond to study tourism and land use conflicts, and visit Scotland's coastal landscapes to gather data which is then used for the completion of assignment work.
Higher Geography expands on the topics previously studied at National 5 level, looking in more depth at important issues including global climate change and the damaging impact of urban development. The course encourages the development of a wide range of geographical skills and techniques, and an increased understanding of the ways in which people and the environment interact. An assignment makes up more than a quarter of candidates' final overall grades, with pupils expected to demonstrate skills, knowledge and understanding within the context of a geographic issue.
Advanced Higher Geography pupils study a range of geographical skills in collecting, processing and interpreting data, as well as critically examining contemporary geographical issues. Alongside a final written exam, Advanced Higher geographers are expected to complete a folio comprising a geographical study of their choice and an essay that critically evaluates a contemporary geographical issue, with guidance and supervision from the department.
The Advanced Higher course develops maturity and promotes independent study, providing an open-ended syllabus with personalisation and choice, excellent preparation for further study of geography-related subjects at university and beyond.
The National 5 course is a fascinating outlet for those who have a keen interest in politics and current affairs, covering the following broad topics: ‘Democracy in Scotland’, ‘Social Issues in the UK - Crime and the Law’ and ‘World Power - The USA’. Pupils touch on oft-debated contemporary issues including Scottish independence, crime and imprisonment rates and the hot topic of gun crime in The United States of America.
Higher Modern Studies builds upon the knowledge and skills gained at National 5 level. The general topics of ‘Democracy in Scotland’, ‘Social Issues in the UK’ and ‘International Issues’ remain the same, but with altered focuses at Higher level, with pupils looking at the impact on Scotland of leaving the EU, the highly relevant topic of social inequality in the UK and the conflict in Syria. A Higher assignment requires pupils to prepare a report in the format of a memo to government on how to tackle an issue of their choice, evaluating three possible responses and making a clear recommendation.
Our Advanced Higher course is an ideal choice for candidates who wish to further their knowledge of political issues, following on from the Higher syllabus. Pupils undertake a study of comparative politics, comparing and contrasting the political systems of the UK and the USA, touching on important issues such as political structures, ideologies, pressure groups, political parties and the influence of the media. Other international examples are also introduced where appropriate.
Advanced Higher candidates also study research methods, investigating the various techniques used within the social sciences, while learning more about the importance of conducting research that produces valid and reliable conclusions, and the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative vs qualitative research. This aids pupils in writing a dissertation, which acts as a significant part of their final grade. Candidates select and research a political issue of their choice, engaging deeply with the topic by conducting their own primary research and secondary research from existing literature.
Pupils choosing to study Advanced Higher Modern Studies are expected to fully engage with the subject, keeping abreast of important contemporary issues and reading widely about politics, both from newspapers and other reliable sources such as books or journal articles. Pupils are expected to think critically about where information is coming from and its trustworthiness, as well as developing their own opinions on topics being studied. Active participation in discussion is also vital, with the teaching of the course following a seminar model in which pupils are asked to present ideas and opinions. The expectations and teaching style for the Advanced Higher course is designed to prepare pupils for the demands of university. Therefore, a great deal of self-discipline and independent learning is required to get the most out of our offering.