The Department offers a range of subjects at AS and A level or as part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma programme. The staff in this Department is able to draw upon a wide range of expertise. Some have taught in a range of schools and colleges before their appointment to Colchester Sixth Form College. Many are examiners in their subject area, some at a senior level. All of us are passionate about fieldwork and we aim to offer a wide range of contrasting opportunities for students.

Courses Offered

Subjects that we offer at AS and A level:

  • Environmental Studies
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • World Development

In addition Environmental Systems at Standard level and Geography at Higher or Standard Level are available to students taking the IB Diploma programme.

Naturally enough, Geography is the subject taken by the largest number of students that we teach but the other courses offered are also extremely popular. We have some of the largest numbers of students, by national standards, taking Environmental Studies, Geology and World Development. All of the subjects can be studied in their own right, but a considerable number of students take at least two of the subjects as there is no nationally imposed restriction on combinations from these subjects. The brief descriptions below highlight some of the natural links that exist between subjects, although each is quite distinctive in its own right.


This is one of the traditional A level subjects. Classed as a humanities subject but with strong links to the sciences and a requirement for sound written and analytical abilities. You learn and use a variety of transferable skills that are in great demand and are recognised by employers and universities and colleges as being of great value. The course will develop an understanding and knowledge of the main components of Physical and Human Geography, the processes operating, interactions between them, the problems and solutions relating to them.

Geography tackles the BIG issues! The world in which we live is likely to change more in the next 50 years than ever before. Geography will explain why, and will prepare you for these changes.

Environmental Studies

This is firmly in the realms of science subjects and is accepted by universities as such for the majority of courses e.g. Environmental Science, Agriculture, and Marine Biology. If you are keen on exploring a wide range of environmental issues, from agricultural impacts to water pollution or from energy conservation to managing habitat biodiversity then this could be the subject for you. Many students go onto university to study these, or similar topics, as part of an Environmental Science degree.


Geology is a well-established science and a very high proportion of Colchester Sixth Form College students taking this subject progress to university to study it further. Scientific skills are needed to understand the tectonic processes that shape the earth’s surface, the physics of seismic waves, the chemistry of rocks and minerals or the biology of ancient life forms. Many students will combine Geology with another of the ‘natural’ sciences or with Environmental Studies or Geography.

World Development

This is the newest subject to be offered by the Department and it particularly appeals to students interested in human geography and development issues within economics and sociology. It is taught in just three lessons per week and so some overlapping interest and ability in these related subjects is a distinct advantage. The course explores the problems associated with economic growth and population pressures and how these have led to the depletion of the world's natural resources. You will evaluate the importance of values and attitudes in understanding different views about development and poverty, formulating your own informed opinions and judgments. In particular, you will examine the efforts made to reduce global poverty.

Some FAQs

Q: How will I be taught?

A: Each subject in the department is taught over six periods a week. You will generally be taught by two different tutors, with for instance in Geography, the first tutor teaching the more ‘physical’ topics and the second teaching the ‘human’ elements. Some of the lessons will be taught in ICT rooms, with the emphasis being on independent research.

Q: Can I combine Geography with other subjects offered within the department?

A: Whilst there is nothing to prevent you from taking all of the courses offered within the department, it might be more prudent to choose a broader range of subjects. Many students choose to combine two of the subjects in the department which allows a degree of specialism whilst also providing the opportunity to study subjects outside of the department.

Q: Do I need to have studied Geography at GCSE?

A: Yes. The minimum entry requirement is a GCSE grade C in Geography at GCSE. In addition, all students will need to achieve a minimum grade C in English. Geography is an essay-based subject, and as such, students will be required to formulate and structure arguments in a clear and organised manner. There is no requirement to have studied Geology, Environmental Studies or World Development before, although each course has their own entry requirements.

Q: How will I be assessed?

A: Geography is assessed through two written exam papers with NO formal coursework. The coursework option was removed in 2008. There is still a requirement to carry out fieldwork however, and the skills gained through this will form part of the assessment in the second written exam. Environmental studies is assessed is the same format, through two written examinations, whilst Geology is assessed through a combination of coursework and written exams.

Q: Am I expected to go on all the fieldtrips?

A: No. Whilst a small number of trips are compulsory, these are usually short duration and low cost. Most of the fieldtrips offered within the department are optional and whilst they are highly recommended, it is entirely up to the individual student. For more information, see the Trips and Visits page.

Q: Where will a qualification in these subjects get me?

A: Geography, Geology and Environmental studies are regarded as being amongst the most ‘desirable’ degree qualifications by employers. Please see the ‘Higher Education’ link for more information.

Q: I want to study Geography or a related course at university. What advice do you have?

A: The department offer a number of ‘extension’ options, including the Extended Project Qualification taught through GIS or Geography. This standalone qualification is worth half an A-Level and provides the opportunity to carry out an independent research task on a topic of your choosing.

Please see the Course Details box on this page for links to downloadable subject information sheets.