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A-Level Geography students’ work charts changes to North Norfolk coast

Geography A-Level students from Fakenham Sixth Form have been helping to record changes to North Norfolk’s coastline due to coastal erosion – and now their work will help educate others about the issue thanks to a link with Sheringham Museum.

For each of the last 4 years, successive groups of students have measured and recorded changes to the beaches at Sheringham, Weybourne and Salthouse, through annual fieldwork visits in February and April.

Their surveys provide a growing set of data on the changing coastline, which is important because these changes have implications for the likelihood of local flooding events due to storm surges, such as that which occurred on 13 January 2017.

The students’ work has generated a high quality body of data which is now incorporated into some of the educational resources on display in Sheringham Museum.  The data is also available for the students to analyse in their independent investigations, which they undertake over the summer between years 12 and 13.  

The project has special significance for one former student in particular.  Catherine Thorpe was part of the first cohort of geography A-Level students to take part in 2013.  She subsequently went on to do a geography degree at the University of Southampton, returning to the North Norfolk coast for her dissertation.

Now a trainee geography teacher with Norfolk Teacher Training Centre, Ms Thorpe has maintained the link with Fakenham Sixth Form.  She recently co-wrote an article about the project, with Colin Bye and Sally Hirst, which has been published in the Geographical Association’s journal, Teaching Geography.

Fakenham Sixth Form student Michael Viner, 17, who plans to study Geography at university, said:

“It does feel really good to work on a project that has relevance to the real world, especially as it’s in our local area, you do see the effect on people’s lives that are 5 or 10 miles away from you.  It brings it much more to life and makes it more realistic than regular coursework you might do.”

Fellow A-Level Geography student Millie Latter, 17, who also plans to continue with the subject at degree level, said:

“Geography can be applied to so many things and the Physical and Human aspects blend so well together.  So on the North Norfolk coast, for example, when there’s a storm surge obviously there’s an environmental impact, but there’s also social implications for the people who live there.  It’s got applications to so many different aspects of life.”

A-Level Geography student Dominic Hancock, 17, added:

“This has given us the chance to take part in a professional study that is the culmination of several years’ worth of work.  I am so proud to say that I have been a part of this work and been able to contribute to it.  I think it’s exciting to know that possibly one day my primary data will be someone else’s secondary data, and they will be able to use my stats, our findings, in assisting them.  It gives you a nice feeling because you are helping future generations.” 

Colin Bye, Head of Geogaphy, Fakenham Sixth Form, commented:

“This project has allowed students to gain a much deeper understanding of how changing geography has a real impact on local communities in North Norfolk.  The quality of their data means that our students are directly contributing to knowledge of coastal change in Sheringham.  We are delighted that Sheringham Museum are making use of the students’ work and helping to share it more widely.”        

Sally Birch, Education Officer, Sheringham Museum, said:

“We have thoroughly enjoyed working collaboratively with Fakenham Sixth Form to help support delivery of the ‘Changing Places’ aspect of the Geography A-level.”

Sheringham Museum tells the story of the town and its, brave, independent people over the last two centuries. Through engaging with artefacts, visual representations and a range of other records from the museum archive, students have been able to gain an understanding of how a place is known and experienced. Discussing past lives and events explains how a town like Sheringham develops an individual character and responds to changes over time. Sheringham is a museum about community, and is for the community and this is very much a part of our ‘Changing Places’ workshop.