Geography Department

Geography is the subject, which holds the key to our future. Michael Palin

At St. Columba's, we believe that Geography is the study of where places are, what they are like, what life is like in them, how and why they are changing, and why there are arguments about how we use them. Geography helps to give a greater awareness of day-to-day life at local, regional, national and world levels, emphasising the relationship between people and their environment. We feel that this equips pupils with vital understanding and skills that allows them to make a positive difference to their lives and those of others.

Geography students study issues as diverse as migration, plate tectonics, urban sprawl and various types of erosion. These and many other topics are synthesised within a number of overarching themes including sustainable development positive attitudes to the physical and human environment and active and informed citizenship.

The Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate syllabus have contextualised geography in the life experience of the Irish, European and global citizen. The skills gained are skills for life. No longer do we concentrate on the answering of the traditional geographical question of, Where? But now confidently ask the questions What? Why? And Why not?

The revised Junior Certificate was first examined in 1992 while the revised Leaving Certificate was examined in 2006. This syllabus was structured to build on the Junior Certificate syllabus. It comprised of a series of core, elective and optional units and included a compulsory geographical investigation. As a result of these revisions students now experience a structured, layered and linked geographical education as they advance through their primary and secondary level schooling.

Subject organisation within the school:

Junior Certificate

Geography is a compulsory subject up to the end of the Junior Certificate examination. Two lessons per week are taught to Form I with the number of lessons increasing to three per week in Forms II and III. The classes are non-streamed and of mixed ability. Students study the subject with a view to taking the higher level paper in the Junior Certificate examination. Nationally 80% of students sit higher level while at St. Columba’s the figure is usually in the region of 98% with the results far exceeding the national average.

Over the three year cycle the syllabus is broadly divided into three categories;

a)   The Human Habitat ' Processes and Change
b)   Population Settlement Patterns and Urbanisation
c)   Patterns in Economic Activity

Transition Year- World Development and Physical Geography

This is a one-year standalone option for Form IV pupils. Four Lessons are allocated per week
One of the primary aims of the syllabus is to make young people aware of developmental issues across the world. This relates to relevant topics and issues that we face today such as globalization, climate change, poverty and development to name a few. The course is designed to be stimulating and engaging, encouraging independent research and using a range of enquiry methods to learn about particular topics. It aims to broaden horizons of key issues whilst preparing pupils for the challenge that Leaving Certificate Geography offers.


Leaving Certificate

Geography is a popular subject at Leaving Certificate level and allocated 5 lessons per week (including a double lesson). Classes are of mixed ability and the majority of pupils take the higher level paper at Leaving Certificate.

Students have ample opportunity to acquire the practical skills of a geographer in observing, presenting and interpreting evidence from a wide variety of sources. A four day residential fieldwork course to the Burren in Co. Clare takes place each year to allow for the preparation of the geographical investigation,  20% of the total examination marks. The department will also be running expeditions abroad, the first of which will be to the ‘land of fire and ice’, Iceland. This expedition will only be available to our geography pupils.


Junior Cycle Programme:

Prep should be set on a nightly basis and should normally include at least one prep of written material and one of a learning nature. All pupils have workbooks, exercise books and past Junior Certificate exam papers, which form the basis for written answers.

Transition Year:

Prep will be issued on a weekly basis and will largely be structured around significant research tasks being undertaken by the pupils. This will then be supported by exam questions to enhance exam technique.

Leaving Certificate Programme:
Pupils should be presenting at least one fully developed answer each week. The questions/topics set should reflect the style and format of Leaving Certificate questions. At this level learning and preparation of topics will form the basis of learning preps.


Junior Cycle termly examinations are generally 1.5 hours long with the exception of at least one mock exam at the end of Hillary Term in Form III, which will be a two-hour long exam as is the case in the Junior Certificate examination.

Senior Cycle exams are two-hours minimum with the Hilary Term Mock examination in the VI Form being an exception. This will be 3 hours in duration.

Where possible, the examinations, as set in Trinity Term, should reflect the prescribed topics of study covered over the course of the school year.

Class records/Grades:

For the purpose of weekly effort marks, all pupils' grades of assessment are recorded in a mark book. These are monitored and discussed with pupils if appropriate.

Exam percentages, place in set and class averages are required for order cards at the end of each term. These must duplicate the report entries and comments.

Lesson Plans/Term Plans:

The Teaching Schedule for each term is laid out on the Schemes of Work. Weekly class planning is generally recorded by individual teachers in their planner and is structured around the Scheme of Work.

Members of the geography department are invited to share examples of best practice/methodology, which would have obvious benefits for the teachers and pupils involved. If teachers feel comfortable, they should encourage other members of the department to observe and comment on teaching methods and classroom presentation. CPD and courses to further develop the teaching and learning within the department is greatly encouraged.

Pupil Feedback:

Constructive comments on prep and examinations answers are encouraged. In the Michaelmas and Hilary terms, post examination lessons should be used to demonstrate the type of style of answering expected in the exams. Exam questions are also incorporated into lessons on a regular basis to develop the exam technique of each student.

Geography by its very nature, as a course of study, provides opportunities to visit and study a wide and diverse range of activities. The visits should be focussed and of benefit. Care should be taken in planning visits/expeditions that cause too much disruption to the college routine (and games) and is generally avoided.


A wide-ranging variety of teaching resources are stored in the geography room. Relevant clips, maps, exam papers, books, documents (e.g. geofactsheets), and magazines/periodicals are all available.


The Richard Hayes-Crofton Senior Geography Prize is awarded for outstanding work in geography. This is largely based on the mock exam in Form VI.

The Junior Prize is also based on their mock exam.

Career Prospects

Many students move on to higher education to do geography or related subjects.  Geography leads on to many career opportunities and is in demand in such areas as accountancy, marketing, tourism, agriculture, outdoor leisure, human resources, oceanography, travel, economics, environmental science, engineering, anthropology, development studies, earth studies and many, many more.


Mr. S. Duffy (Head of Department)

Mrs. S-J. Johnson

Mr. P. Stevenson