The RSGS Education committee has been hosting a series of discussion events, looking at different aspects of proposed curriculum change for Scotland. Following on from a physical conference taking place in January 2023, there have been webinars looking at the proposed new Scottish Diploma (October 2023), Interdisciplinary Learning (November 2023) and Learning for Sustainability (January 2024). Reports on each of these can also be found on the RSGS blog.

The fourth webinar in this series took place on Thursday 14th March with a focus on Teaching Geospatial Analysis. This is an area of study not currently proscribed by the SQA and as such not necessarily included in current school curriculum in Scotland. Many teachers do try and incorporate aspects of this in their teaching and learning and it is a regular request from teachers when discussing continuing professional learning needs.

Prof. Bruce Gittings from the University of Edinburgh and AGI Scotland began by dedicating the webinar to well know geographer Kenny McLean who died earlier in the week. He emphasised the importance of encouraging children to think spatially rather than being too concerned with software proficiency – geospatial is the science of where. He then went on to describe the diversity of applications including emphasising that it applies to more than just the subject of Geography:

·         Assessing change (e.g. deforestation, glacial retreat, urban growth)

·         Smartphone (difference between global and local)

·         Environmental hazards (flood risk, earthquakes/volcanoes, tropical storms)

·         Transport (logistics and deliveries including interplay of space/time)

·         Sentiment analysis (how do people feel about a product/issue in different locations?)

·         Historical maps (land use change)

·         Public health and disease (e.g. real time covid cases)

·         Maps as art (what makes a good map?)

·         Imagines places (literature)

·         Sports science and dance (movement analysis)

·         Animal migration (conservation and biological understanding)

Ashley Stewart, project manager for Location Data Scotland (LDS), a government initiative tasked with setting up a geospatial community. She emphasised the economic value in this sector and the huge range of career opportunities this has opened up. Potential careers using geospatial data in:

·         GIS analyst/manager

·         Remote sensing specialist

·         Cartographer/map designer

·         Developer/programmer

·         Data scientist

·         Climate scientist

·         City/urban planner

·         Health geographer

There is a recognised shortage of qualified individuals in this sector. There is also currently a limited educational pathway, with studying GIS only possible at Masters level. LDS has developed a roadmap to address this issue with 33 proposed actions. The three main thematic areas to consider are:

·         Engagement (industry, education and major stakeholders)

·         Communication (enhanced messaging, developing materials)

·         Substantive development (to realise the ambitions and drive the pipeline of talent)

Important to enhance diversity by creating a range of new pathways bringing young people into the sector. Working with colleges is critical for this. First event planned would be to host a schools day bringing together young learners (S2-S4) with industry and stakeholders. Followed on by an industry day to ascertain what skills are required.

Geospatial is exciting and the opportunities are extensive and both Ashley and Bruce are very open to collaboration with schools, especially on how best to communicate these opportunities.

Summary of conclusions from group discussions in breakout rooms:

·         Recognition that current difficulties include lack of expertise and understanding in teacher workforce and a lack of access to suitable technology in some schools.

·         There is almost too much information available and having manageable, targeted resources would be beneficial for teachers to access.

·         Many schools are not engaging with geospatial because it is not in the exam system and until this changes, it will not be seen as a priority by many teachers.

·         With the current proposed changes to the exam system, pushing to incorporate some reference to geospatial analysis should be a priority.  

·         Where it is currently being used, it is mainly in BGE (S1-S3) or in Advanced Higher (S6) where there is a little more flexibility and time to incorporate this.

·         Geospatial should be seen as a tool rather than an educational concept to be learned.

·         Teaching geospatial should be task driven with a focus on links to community, the environment and cost-effective solutions to problems. This would provide justification as to why it is important.

·         There is an impressive range of applications for GIS in the classroom and interesting, relevant career opportunities but better awareness of these is important.

·         There is a need to remember that geospatial is more than just for employment.

·         Moray House is already introducing geospatial to its Initial Teacher Education, working with ESRI UK, but this needs to be expanded for all teachers to ensure confidence in delivery.

·         Geospatial is seen as being a good way of developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Also, in helping students make informed choices.

·         Geospatial is felt to offer a vehicle by which Interdisciplinary Learning can be promoted and experienced by students. It was felt that learning experiences with such a GIS focus would help to delivery Hayward’s vision of Project Learning, one of the three elements in the proposed Scottish Diploma of Achievement.

·         Pressures of curriculum, timetable time and limited time for teacher lesson preparation all hinder curriculum development in schools.

·         Supporting teachers currently delivering geospatial will allow this to cascade to other teachers. More than just geography teachers in this as relevance in biology, history, modern studies and especially any teacher involved in outdoor learning.

·         Most young people may be adept with smartphones apps but few understand the technology. For GIS in lessons, it is not enough for teachers to demonstrate a use. Learning resources need to be used that allow students to use GIS themselves.

·         A guidance document outlining what GIS resources might be used with specific levels of technology being available in a school could be produced

·         Engaging with career advisors will help to raise awareness of this as a career path.

·         Contemporary case studies of professional geographers and geospatialists are needed. Is there a role for RSGS in co-ordinating a collection of online and printable, personalised careers examples?

·         Citizenship - Skills for accessing and understanding data to live as a citizen - understanding information that is presented spatially

·         Spatial data might be biased! Need to teach students to be critical and so they need to know where it comes from and how it is analysed and maps produced

·         Understand social media and how companies harvest our spatial data

·         Links with understanding digital data  - its sources, how my data is used, internet safety

·         Need for raising awareness that spatial data is behind a lot of the apps that we rely on.

Geospatial is not unique to geography but neither is it a universal aspect across the curriculum. Geospatial can enhance the reputation of geography in schools, bringing an interesting and thought-provoking approach to learning. This could boost student numbers. Should other teachers and subjects then realise the potential of geospatial then some of them might well consider adopting it in their approach to learning. Geography teachers could then be curriculum leaders in this aspect.

Resources to adopt directly into lessons:

Ready to use ArcGIS storymaps
Ready-to-use Maps - StoryMaps Blog

Worldmapper | rediscover the world as you've never seen it before

Digimap resources
Resource (

Maps & Symbols resources from Digimap
Resource (

OS GIS case studies
Case Studies | Customers | OS ( 

ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World

Resources to help individual PD about geospatial ideas and skills:

Intro to ArcGIS online
An introduction to ArcGIS Online—ArcGIS Online Help | Documentation
Digital Stories & Presentations | ArcGIS StoryMaps (

OS What is GIS and resources
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) | OS Tools & Support ( – GIS in KS3
Microsoft Word - KS3_UG1UsingGISAcrossKS3.doc (

RGS GIS in the Curriculum
anintroductiontogeographicalinformationsystems.pdf (

Teach with GIS
Events | Teach with GIS UK (

Resources that enable teachers to adapt materials to create their own applications for use by teachers or by students:

How to make Storymaps

Digimap for Schools
Digimap For Schools (

RGS resources and links
Free GIS and maps for fieldwork - RGS

 GIS related careers
Geographical Information Systems - RGS

ESRI careers in GIS
GIS Jobs | Careers in Geographic Information Systems (

GIS Geography - What can I do with a GIS degree
What Can You Do with a GIS Degree? - GIS Geography

USC careers in GIS
4 Careers in GIS With Great Job Outlooks - USC GIS Online

Geography careers
What can I do with a geography degree? |

RGS choose a career with geography
Choose a career with geography - RGS

 Curriculum documents with GIS mentioned

GCSE_geography.pdf (  
AQA | Geography | Subject content | Geographical skills  

Department for Education (  
AQA | Geography | Subject content | Geographical skills checklist