Geography is concerned with the interplay between the natural systems that govern the planet and the human race. 

Its scope is necessarily vast and, in being so, it is a subject rich in colour, diversity, range and content. The Geographer must be able nimbly to link data, ideas and concepts across varying temporal and spatial scales. Observation, critical analysis and evaluative reflection are essential skills that are actively developed at all levels of the subject.


Extra Curricular

The department take great pride in the scope of extra activities offered to pupils under the umbrella of Geography.

GIS: We run a weekly Geographical Information Systems (GIS) course which is offered to pupils at any level of study, enabling them to obtain a professional ArcGIS qualification to use at university level or beyond. Geo-dash: Two members of the department combine their love of running with an orienteering style activity known as geocaching as a Monday activity.

Geog-On: Twice a term, a Geography based documentary film is screened accompanied by popcorn and drinks. This is followed by a group discussion about the film.

Additional Support: The Department offers extra sessions every Tuesday and Thursday evening allowing pupils to complete missed work, catch up on reading, revise for exams or seek help with prep.

Trips: On top of the UK based fieldtrips, the Department is involved in international trips that are not part of the academic curriculum. In recent years, these have included trips to North Africa, Norway, Costa Rica and Montserrat. The Department also makes regular trips to the local area to attend academic lectures and tours. In recent years these have included visiting the Perth Concert Hall for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society Lecture Programme and to the west coast to visit the Scottish Association for Marine Science centre near Oban.


Head of Department - Mr Thomas Mason Bsc, Loughborough, PGDE

Mr Steve Smith, MA, PGDE

Mr Conor Swaile, MA, PGDE

Mr Richard Myers, BEd, BA

“The world is full of opinion. What we need is for people to go out and find the facts.” In many ways that is exactly what we strive to achieve in the Glenalmond Geography Department. Fieldwork and pupil sourced factual data is paramount to everything that we do, fuelling enquiry and a lifelong love of the subject.  Learning here is not a passive passing of information from teacher to learner. Pupils are encouraged to question, probe, analyse, review and finally form their own opinions based on the facts that they have sourced first hand." Kevin MacDonald, Film Director and OG

Second Form 

The Second Form syllabus provides a strong foundation in all aspects of Geography and its principal goal is to develop a high level of enjoyment in the subject.

Second Form Topics: Map skills, Rivers and the weather.

Third Form 

The syllabus is designed to challenge and to stimulate intellectual engagement by introducing big concepts and ideas to the Third Form pupils. Technical field skills and geographical communication are also focused upon in order to have a broad skill base before entry into the GCSE course.

Third Form Topics: International development and globalisation, Tourism, and the Geography of disaster.

Geography is concerned with the interplay between the natural systems that govern the planet and the human race. Its scope is necessarily vast and, in being so, it is a subject rich in colour, diversity, range and content. For GCSE Geography we follow the new AQA Specification A.  This is the best of the new specifications to provide a foundation for both the world we live in and the new A Level studied over two years in Sixth Form. The course consists of three units:


UNIT 1: Living with the Physical Environment (1.5 hr exam) 35% of GCSE grade

  • The Challenge of Natural Hazards
    • Natural hazards
    • Tectonic hazards
    • Weather hazards
    • Climate change
  • The Living World
    • Ecosystems
    • Tropical rainforests
    • Desert environments
    • Cold environments
  • Physical Landscapes in the UK
    • Coastal landscapes
    • River landscapes
    • Glacial landscapes


UNIT 2: Challenges in the Human Environment (1.5 hr exam) 35% of GCSE grade

  • Urban Issues and Challenges
    • Urban growth
    • Urban change in the UK
    • Urban sustainability
  • The Changing Economic World
    • Global variations in economic development
    • Factors affecting global inequality
    • Development projects
  • The Challenge of Resource Management
    • Food
    • Water
    • Energy


UNIT 3: Geographical Applications (1hr 15 min exam) 30% of GCSE grade

  • Questions based upon pre-release resources booklet made available 12 weeks before unit 3 exam


The GCSE Geography course is suitable for anybody with an analytical interest in the world around them. Pupils should feel comfortable communicating their understanding in writing and using an evidence-based approach to argument and discussion. 

A Level Course Description

Component 1: Physical Geography – Assessed by a 2.5 hr exam (40% of A Level grade)


  • Water and Carbon Cycles
  • Hot Deserts and their margins
  • Hazards

Component 2: Human Geography – Assessed by a 2.5 hr exam (40% of A Level grade)


  • Global systems and global governance
  • Changing Places
  • Population and the environment


Component 3: Geographical investigation – Individual investigation marked by teacher (20% of A Level grade)

A 3000-4000 word individual investigation based upon data gathered during 4 days of fieldwork.

Please note, as this involves a residential trip working with the Field Studies Council, there will be an additional cost involved for A Level Geography pupils (~£250).


Assessment Methods and Recommended Entry Requirements

All of the components are examined through written examination, often in the form of discursive essays and extended structured responses. Also, a significant component of the approach is analytical in format and requires strength in numeracy and analysis. As such, confidence in both extendedwritten communication and the quantitative scientific approach is needed to meet with a high level of success. GCSE Geography at minimum B grade is encouraged, though not essential.


Subject Combinations, Careers and Higher Education

Many of our pupils ally Geography with the sciences and mathematics, offering a linked discipline that allows pupils to demonstrate breadth of communication skills and application of theory. Likewise, Geography can also be used to form a core of specialism in the humanities along with History and Politics. Continuation of the subject at university level is very high both in Geography undergraduate courses and in related disciplines, including: geology, geophysics, chemistry, environmental science, anthropology, sociology, chemistry, languages and history. It is also appropriate for entry into more vocational undergraduate courses, such as law, surveying and engineering. Some of our pupils are also taking the opportunity to develop linked qualifications in GIS (Geographical Information Systems) whilst completing their A Levels and then pursuing these areas at university.


Careers in geographical studies and earth sciences are varied and represent a huge growth area of industry. Recent graduates have pursued a wide range of professional positions, including: GIS specialist; hydrocarbon geologist; environmental consultants; energy consultants, travel and logistics managers; scientific and social science researchers.

Purpose of the course

Geography opens up for learners the physical and human environment around them and the ways in which people interact with the environment. The purpose of this course is to develop the learner’s understanding of our changing world and its human and physical processes. Opportunities for practical activities, including fieldwork, will be encouraged, so that learners can interact with their environment.


Comparison with A Level Geography

The course specification contains far greater breadth than A Level Geography but significantly less depth. At A Level, 6 topics (75% of A level grade) plus a field investigation (25%) are completed over two years. By comparison, in the Higher course, 9 topics are covered (66% of the Higher grade) as well as a field investigation (33%). 

The Higher is assessed by one terminal examination whereas the A level has two terminal examinations. The A Level assessment is largely based around extended writing, including 20 mark essays. The Higher assessment is structured around short paragraph answers of between 3 and 6 marks with a final 10 mark response at the end of the examination being the most substantial answer candidates are expected to produce.


SQA Higher assessment structure

The SQA Higher Geography is assessed by one terminal examination with a total of 60 marks – 15 marks for physical environments, 15 marks for human environments, 20 marks for global issues and 10 marks for geographical skills.

Marks awarded for questions range between 3 – 6 marks. The final question on ‘application of geographical skills’ is the only extended answer and is worth 10 marks.


Breakdown of the course

Physical Environments: Atmosphere, Biosphere, Lithosphere and Hydrosphere

Human Environments: Urban, Rural and Population

Global Issues: River basin management and Development and Health

Geographical Assignment: Field work project based on data gathered on the Isle of Arran