Jon Barker Profile
What subjects did you study prior to arriving in Durham?
A level: Geography, Maths and English.
Which degree programme did you study at Durham and why?
BA Geography - Whilst at school, I always preferred Human Geography, so the BA course seemed the natural step for me. At Durham, I dipped my toes into Physical Geography with the introductory courses in the first year and then the course on Karst landscapes - all of which were certainly interesting and ensured that I was not too focused on Human Geography, which I was glad of after I had left, although Human Geography has remained my passion out of the two, with other highlights within that.
What were the highlights of studying at Durham?
I found the course on Urban Geography to be particularly fascinating. This course from my second year was certainly the most memorable and one that I have often referred to since leaving Durham.
What was the topic of your third-year dissertation?
My dissertation was focused on geopolitics and investigating the levels of interest in different scales of politics, particularly focusing on apathy at national and local voting levels.
What are you doing now and how did your degree help prepare you?
I am currently Head of Geography at St Mary’s School, Ascot, having been Head of Geography at Uppingham School and taught at Abingdon School and Ampleforth College, prior to that. Whilst a lot of the topics that I studied at Durham are not on school syllabuses, they helped me to recognise the wider relevance of Geography and have helped to enthuse my own students in topics beyond what is needed for exams.
Again, my initial interest developed from Urban Geography has developed into a General Studies lecture that I have given to students, some studying Geography, but some not. The development of my research skills was certainly helpful for my PGCE and beyond that in preparing for higher-achieving students and in my own writing for the Geographical Association.
Of course, my knowledge of Durham colleges has also helped to advise applicants on what college would be best for them, which was an extra bonus.
Overall, my time at Durham was hugely enjoyable. It helped to develop my enthusiasm and interest in the subject and ensured that I went into a career in which I could directly relate to my subject every day, while also showing others how Geography could be used in other walks of life.