A level Geography course

Ashbourne’s Geography teacher Selina Rand brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to the subject inspiring students to engage in lively and stimulating classroom discussions.

Ashbourne College London - Geography Field TripStudents are encouraged to address pressing issues of the day like global energy use, climate change and creating a sustainable relationship between people and the environment, as well as to understand the physical nature of the Earth.

Documentaries, newspaper articles, interactive graphics and statistical sources are just a few of the wide range of visual and multimedia resources used to enhance students’ learning.

Exploring and carrying out research in places of outstanding beauty and interest like the Lake District and the Portuguese Algarve are real highlights for students on the course.

Why study A level Geography?

“Where we come from, what we do, what we eat, how we move about and how we shape our future are all directly the province of the geographer. More than ever we need the geographer’s skills and foresight to help us learn about the planet — how we use it and how we abuse it.” Michael Palin

Geography is not only about huge tectonic plates smashing together to create awesome mountain ranges, volcanoes spewing out molten lava that fertilises the land, ice rivers that carve through rock, deserts that were once under water and the vast under explored realms of the sea.

It is also about people, plants and animals and how they interact with their environment. Our ability to produce sustainable food sources and energy, how we use the land, dispose of waste, prevent animal and plant extinction, cope with disease, share resources and manage human migration are just are few of the global challenges geographers can help solve.

Exploring these issues and developing creative ways to deal with them requires excellent observational, analytical, interpretative and predictive skills – invaluable to many other areas of study and life.

Geography offers a wide range of options for further study and is highly respected as a ‘facilitating’ subject by Russell Group Universities.

Which syllabus do we follow?

Ashbourne follows the AQA specification for Geography AS level and A level

What is covered on the course?

This course explores the Earth’s physical properties and the processes that have shaped it (Physical geography), the relationships between people and their environments (Human geography) and a wide range of geo-political issues facing the world today.

Students will also carry out a Geography investigation based on fieldwork.

Throughout the course students will develop and apply a wide range of skills and methods enabling them to effectively collate, represent, qualify, analyse, interpret and evaluate information, sources and data.

Physical geographyHuman geographyInvestigative geography
Component 1

Glaciers that once covered much of the Earth’s surfaces have carved and shaped spectacular landscapes. Enormous mountain ranges, like the Himalayas, block rain from reaching land creating vast sweltering deserts by day; freezing by night. Crashing waves relentlessly sculpt and change coastlines.

Physical geography uncovers the processes that have shaped the Earth’s surfaces – coastal, glacial and desertification – and examines their role in creating, supporting and changing the ecosystems of plants and animals. It also reveals the vital role of ‘Life Support Systems’ like water and carbon cycles.

The solid, rocky crust covering the planet (lithosphere); oceans, rivers, lakes and moisture (hydrosphere); plants, animals and organisms (biosphere); and oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and other gases (atmosphere) comprise the four geo-spheres on or near the Earth’s surface. Each are interrelated and play vital roles. They also create (sometimes cataclysmic) hazards like Earthquakes, floods, disease and tornadoes.

AS and A level students
At Ashbourne we will focus on three main areas: water and carbon cycles; coastal systems, landscape and human inter-relation; and natural hazards created by the lithosphere and the atmosphere, and human responses like prediction, management and mitigation.

You will also learn a variety of practical skills and techniques enabling you to represent, analyse and interpret your own data and determine environmental change: observation, measurement and geo-spatial mapping, data manipulation and statistical application to field measurements, sediment budget calculations and mass balance calculations.

Component 2

Changing places
How would you describe the place where you were born: urban or rural, village or megacity, culturally diverse or monocultural, ultra modern or steeped in history, wealthy or poor, a global hub or remote island? People see, experience and understand place in different ways; this can also change over time. They also shape and define the physical world around them through culture, economy, politics and behaviour.

AS level
Focusing on local areas you know well you will first examine how these shaping forces make a place what it is, or was, and then analyse the impact of global pressures like climate change, migration and social inequality at a local, national, regional and global level.

A level
You will explore how place is represented and examine the relationships and connections between people, the economy and society, and how these contribute to creating places.

Global systems and governance
Food production and trade, mass movement of people, human rights, power struggles (sovereignty and global governance), borders, safeguarding oceans, climate change, spread of disease and a volatile Earth are dynamic and pressing global issues that impact the way we live and where we live.

Resource security
Having access to clean water, fuel and other natural resources like minerals is vital for communities to survive and thrive. Natural resources however are not evenly distributed and with a growing global population of more than seven billion people the demand for them is ever increasing. Control and management of resources is a hugely contentious issue and underlies the cause of many conflicts going on across the globe today.

A level
Through case studies and field work you will begin to build a picture of how global forces and systems shape the world we live in and how people respond to changing circumstances and their environment.

You will also investigate environmental sustainability and the many issues arising from resource access, sharing and conflict.

Whether your passion is glacier chasing, tackling disease, helping environmental refugees, tracking fracking or protecting the Jurassic coastline now is your chance to apply the knowledge, research and skills you have developed during the course in creating an in-depth investigation.

A level
You will undertake an in-depth research project of your choice during your five-day field trip to the Lake District or Scottish Highlands. Following the trip you will need to complete your investigation which will be examined externally.

Who teaches this course?

Selina Rand

BA Social Anthropology and Indonesian Studies (SOAS); PGCE Geography (Goldsmiths)
Selina spent many years travelling and working in South East Asia and the Middle East before returning to the UK to undertake her studies. She has extensive teaching experience and was head of the geography department at a girls’ secondary school for more than 15 years.

Sebastian Weiss

BA Environments, Environmental Geography, Politics and Culture (University of Melbourne, Australia); PGCE Geography, (Cambridge University)
Sebastian has been teaching Geography and German (his native language) since 2011 in Australia, Southeast Asia and the UK. He also has experience as an AQA examiner in Geography.

Beyond A level Geography

With a full Geographer’s toolkit and map (or more likely a GIS – global information system) in hand you will be able to brave the world. You could forecast earthquakes, design flood barriers, monitor migration, create environment policies, campaign for a sustainable environment, measure and map the Earth, plan towns and transport systems, take stunning photos, conserve wildlife and more besides.

Geography A level is an excellent foundation for many degree courses including Geography (of course), Geology, Environmental Science, Environmental Management, Planning, Social Anthropology and courses related to travel and tourism.

Suggested reading and resources

BooksDocumentaries and newsOrganisations
Around the World in 80 Days, Michael Palin

Monty Python comedian, writer and champion of geography Michael Palin circles the globe in 80 days following in the footsteps of fictional adventurer Phileas Fogg.

As a travel writer Michael Palin has produced a wide selection of books and documentaries.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond plots the geographical and environmental factors that have propelled human history and attempts to debunk racially-based theories of development.

Jared Diamond is a popular science author and professor of Geography at the University of California.

More popular Geography books

BBC Science and environment
News and analysis on a wide range of current science and environmental issues.

Human Planet
BBC documentary series on humans and wildlife surviving in the most extreme environments on Earth.

BBC Earth
BBC Earth produces superb documentaries about the natural world including David Attenborough’s Planet Earth and Life.

Rise of the Continents
Professor Iain Stewart uncovers the ancient past of the Earth’s continents in this BBC four part series.

Royal Geographical Society
The Royal Geographical Society aims to support and promote research, education, fieldwork, expeditions and geography in society, and offers advice on policy issues. It also runs discussions, training, exhibitions and holds collections. It was established in 1830. It is a short work from Ashbourne on Kensington Gore.

National Geographic Society
International nonprofit organisation dedicated to exploring the planet, protecting wildlife and habitat and geographical education. New scientific discoveries and spectacular photos are published in the renowned National Geographic magazine and across a variety of digital media. Specific geography section.

Global environmental campaign organisation dedicated to a wide range of issues including stopping climate change, defending oceans, protecting forests and reducing air pollution.

Friends of the Earth
International campaign organisation championing environmental issues like climate change, green energy and clean air.

Client Earth
Legal activist organisation that challenges government environmental policy in favour of a healthier planet.


AS and A Level
Title – AQA A-level Geography (including AS level)
Author – Ian Whittaker et al.
Weblink – AQA A and AS Level Geography
Title – A/AS Level Geography for AQA, Student book
Author – Ann Bowen et al.
Weblink – A/AS Level Geography for AQA, Student book

Why Choose Ashbourne College?
My whole time at Ashbourne College was a great experience! I loved the relationship between the students and staff including teachers, how you could approach anyone and be sure you’ll get any help you needed. I loved the Euro trips, the yearly Christmas revue and the friends I made! :) And, they also helped me get into LSE! I miss Ashbourne!
MimiActuarial Science at LSE - London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
My child has benefited from the amazing opportunities Ashbourne offers. He is respected as an individual and his education has been tailored to suit him. He has had brilliant tutors and the small class sizes ensures he is receiving personalised support in all his classes
I see Ashbourne as a place which I feel comfortable to express myself and it creates an environment that encourages me to develop as a leader. I am constantly looking for ways to improve. I am determined to continue to develop myself and I know that this is made more attainable with Ashbourne’s fantastic support and encouragement. I am very lucky to find myself at Ashbourne. It is a truly remarkable place to work.
Dennis FulcherHead of Multi-Media and Social Science Faculty