Recording, conserving and promoting the landscape and rocks of the Sheffield region

Education and Geology

Geology features in the formal education system in England and Wales in schools, at Primary and Secondary level, and in the Tertiary sector at university level. In both cases Earth Science is commonly used as a synonym, but Physical Geography also features significant geological content.

Geology in schools

The National Curriculum is now in its 7th iteration and SAGT joined in the Department for Education (DfE) consultation of 2013 which preceded it. The consultation resulted in considerable improvements to the original draft, and there is now a coherent framework of Earth Science for pupils to study, with effect from September 2014. See

Primary Schools

Geology features in the National Curriculum, under the title of Earth Science, at Key Stage 1 (5 to 7 year olds) and at Key Stage 2 (8 to 11 year olds). Most of the substance is found within the Science curriculum, with some complementary topics in Geography. All schools within the maintained (state) sector are required to deliver the National Curriculum. Although the growing numbers of Academies and Free Schools are exempt, many use the National Curriculum as a framework for what they should study.

Primary using a handlens
Primary - how to use a handlens
Primary jigging for galena
Primary - jigging for galena

Secondary Schools

Aspects of geology are taught at Key Stage 3 (11 to 14 year olds) and at Key Stage 4 (14 to 16 year olds, leading to the General Certificate of Secondary Education, GCSE).

These feature in the statutory requirements for both Science and Geography at Key Stage 3. In particular pupils should be taught to understand geological timescales and plate tectonics; rock types and the rock cycle plus glaciation and climate changes since the Ice Age.

Geography is a popular option at GCSE and the curriculum requires detailed study of at least two distinctive physical landscapes in the UK and how they are formed by geomorphic processes at different scales, operating in combination with geology, climate and human activity.

All pupils are required to study Science up to GCSE. GCSE Geology is an option available in those schools which have the staffing and resources to deliver the course. The specification has recently been completely revised. It is taught to the normal age group, but has also proved popular at Post 16 level, as an extra subject. Currently, the only Awarding Body to offer GCSE Geology is the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC), but its remit is not limited to Wales.

KS3 modelling erosion
KS3 Modelling erosion

Post 16 Education

GCE Advanced Level Geology is an option for 16 year olds entering the 6th Form or equivalent at college. Whilst always a minority subject, studying it at this age can often enthuse students to follow a course to degree level, and, at the very least, it does provide them with an interesting qualification in a science, with useful transferable skills. Again, the specifications have recently been completely revised. The two Awarding Bodies currently offering A Level are the WJEC and the OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA).
See and

Geography is a popular subject choice at GCE Advanced Level and all specifications are required to include aspects of geology through the study of how landforms make up characteristic landscapes and how these evolve as a result of physical processes driven by past, present and future climate changes. In addition, all specifications offer optional study units where teaching about plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other geological hazards, such as tsunamis, are studied in the context of natural hazards.

A level mapping at Castleton
A level mapping at Castleton
A level mapwork
A level mapwork
A level fieldwork
A level fieldwork
A level visit to orgreave
A level site visit
A level engineering geology
A level engineering geology

Schools and colleges in the local region currently offering a course in A Level Geology are as follows:

  • King Edward VII School, Sheffield
  • Eckington School
  • Wales High School
  • Thomas Rotherham 6th Form College
  • Sheffield High School (for girls, but the school is happy to welcome any boys from other schools who would like to study geology A Level alongside their A levels in their own school, provided that their timetable allows it and their school is willing to fund it.)

Tertiary sector

There is now no university in the local region offering first degree courses in Geology. The University of Sheffield offers Bachelors and Masters courses in Physical Geography and Environmental Sciences and Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters courses in Environmental Engineering.
Sheffield Hallam University offers a BSc course in Environmental Conversation and a number of courses in Geography.
The nearest institutions offering a range of Earth Science courses are the Universities of Leeds, Derby, Manchester and Hull. Details of these and other university Earth Science departments may be obtained from the Committee of Heads of University Geosciences Departments. See

Support for teachers and lecturers


SAGT is willing to provide advice on suitable sites in South Yorkshire for teachers to visit with their students.

Earth Science Teachers' Association, ESTA

ESTA publishes Teaching Earth Sciences twice yearly to keep its members up to date and to disseminate good educational practice and ideas. The website has a members' only section with a wealth of geological material suitable for school use. An Annual Course/Conference is hosted by a variety of venues. In 2017 it will be held at Keele University, from Friday 29th September to Sunday 1st October.

ESTA conference making an S wave
Esta Conference - making an S wave

British Geological Survey (BGS)

BGS provides extensive resources for educational purposes

BGS Educational resources


Earthlearningidea is a website, set up and run on a purely voluntary basis by three retired geology teachers to provide activities relevant to the teaching of Earth Science, with occasional forays into the solar system! It began during the UN's Year of Planet Earth in 2008 and continues to post one new activity per fortnight on the web. There are currently over 250 activities available, many of which have been translated by overseas volunteers into eleven other languages.

ELI making a rock.jpg
ELI Teacher education in UK - making a rock
ELI in India
ELI Teachers trying out Earthlearningideas in India.jpg

Geoconservation UK Education Project

The Geoconservation UK Education Project (Earth Science On-Site) ran from August 2004 to March 2008 and used former aggregates sites to develop and publish examples of high quality Earth Science field teaching activities for schools. The materials were devised to address the requirements of the National Curriculum at Key Stage 2 (7-11 yrs), KS 3 (11-14 yrs) and KS 4 (14-16 yrs - GCSE).

These materials are free and available through the website for teachers to adapt them to sites more local to schools. SAGT will also provide additional help on developing geoscience activities for teachers in the Sheffield Area.

Teachers and NQTs on an ESOS field training course Park Hall Staffordshire.
Photo: John Reynolds

The wider field

British Science Week

British Science Week is held each March, and geological activities often feature in the local area, notably geological walkabouts for the general public in the built environment, and geological investigations for schools in their nearest graveyard.

NSW churchyard survey
National Science Week - churchyard survey
Stone carving
Public education -stonecarving on Stone Spiral, Sheffield General Cemetery


A national club for children and their parents, which arranges indoor events and field trips from time to time.
The photograph shows a Rockwatch group investigating mineral processing at the historic Ecton Copper Mine in the Peak District.
See for details.

Rockwatch at Ecton
Rockwatch at Ecton - buddling for galena


The main regional museums with relevance to geology or extractive industry are

Yorkshire Geological Society

The YGS holds regular indoor meetings in the winter months, which vary in their location, and field visits during the summer months. The Society also promotes Yorkshire Geology Month, held in May each year.

University of the Third Age (U3A)

The U3A is a self-help organisation for older people and has many local special interest groups. For Sheffield see

U3A group
U3A group, ©H. White
U3A Tideswell Dale
U3A Tideswell Dale, ©H. White

Down to Earth (DTE)

DTE is a quarterly 'geological newspaper', which provides updating articles and publicises meetings and field trips, both local and residential. For details contact the Editor

Page updated 30 March 2017