The GA encouraged schools to take part in National Fieldwork Fortnight, which was held in the Summer term from 26 June to 7 July 2023.
Information and theme
Fieldwork is an essential part of a geographical education as well as being a National Curriculum, GCSE and A level requirement. It enables young people to develop their subject knowledge, gain a range of skills that are difficult to develop in the classroom and helps them to understand the ‘messiness’ of geographical reality.
As we all know, organising fieldwork has been a great challenge over the past two years and many learners have not had the chance to experience working out of doors for some time.
National Fieldwork Fortnight is designed to provide a focal point to encourage you to take your classes outside, whether in the school grounds, the local area or further afield.
A simple, common theme of ‘Environment’ has been chosen as this allows flexibility in deciding what to investigate to best advantage.
This will be an opportunity to take our classes out to investigate, observe, discover, challenge, test out ideas and gain a deeper and wider understanding of the world around them.
Remember, if you are busy during National Fieldwork Fortnight you can always choose your own date. The important thing is to go out and do some fieldwork!
What you can expect in the coming months
- Updates to this web page with free access providing information and activities
- A series of resources and journal articles over the current academic year
- The GA Annual Conference 2023, to be held in Sheffield, will include useful fieldwork sessions and non-specialist teachers will be particularly welcome
- The GA’s strategic partners will also be supporting with information and activities
- The opportunity to download a certificate of participation both for your school and those who take part.
Who can take part?
There is no cost to this project unless you decide to take your class on a fieldtrip further away from school. All schools are invited to take part, whether or not they are a member of the Geographical Association. This section of the GA website is packed with ideas and support to help you arrange your fieldwork.
The menu below contains lots of ideas to help you get started. We hope that you will display the work completed in your own school or perhaps in the local library or even the council offices! Whatever you do we hope you enjoy it and that your classes have an exciting and memorable experience.
We would love to hear what your school has been doing for National Fieldwork Fortnight; let us know how many students got involved and send us any photos you would like to share of your experience, displays or activities! Please use the hashtag #nationalfieldworkfortnight on social media and send any feedback, comments or photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
National Fieldwork Fortnight Presentation
Download this short PowerPoint to use at staff meetings to encourage and enthuse everyone to take part:
Sometimes the more traditional way of organising a visit by going out as a whole class is difficult to arrange. The list below provides some other options to consider:
Whole class out for the day
- this has the advantage of being able to develop a section of fieldwork in greater depth and cover a significant amount of work
- it is sometimes more difficult to organise if cover for other lessons is needed.
Whole class out for a short period of time for example up to lunch time or the length of a double lesson
- this can provide more flexibility in terms of responding to weather conditions
- the focus of the work must be very specific if best use is to be made of the time out.
Small groups taken out by the classroom support teacher/assistant perhaps with other adult support
- this prevents disruption of a a whole class but ensures that over a few days everyone has completed the tasks facilitating class follow up.
Individual work. This can be done either at home or when the pupil is out and about bringing back evidence to work on in class
- this can work well where pupils need to sample viewpoints of friends and family or identify issues in their local community
- if each pupil carries out two questionnaires and enters their findings on a class data base the collective evidence will make useful data to interrogate.
Working at a different time of day. Particularly useful for primary schools which have some grounds of their own, however small.
- working outdoors in an evening for example, can be a very interesting task
- the sights, sounds and feelings will be very different as dusk approaches
- this also makes the administration of the activity much simpler. Finishing up with hot chocolate all round will be very welcome!
Visiting another school – rural-to-urban or vice versa
- visiting another school which may not be that far away, can often provide a very different perspective of a place
- pupils can show the visitors their local area and possibly investigate a shared topic
- it has the advantage of having all the amenities to hand and an indoor space if the weather is inclement.
- Changing shopping habits – what is the impact on people, the environment and shops?
- Is shopping online always beneficial for everyone?
- Are new housing estates being built in our area? If so, where are they and what is driving their development?
- Is fly tipping an issue?
- Is public transport well used? Why or why not?
- What is the impact of working from home in our area?
- Has the high street changed in recent times?
- Have there been any changes in the countryside recently?
- How do individuals feel their lives have changed in both the short term and the long term?
One of the important things to do first is to conduct an audit of what is available in your own local area. Don’t forget your own school possibilities as well.
Do you know how parents, governors, other adults might be connected to a resource which you can utilise? Many teachers often live away from the school catchment area so you may need to investigate to find the local information about people, places and services which could help you. The suggestions below cover most areas in the country.
Your local Council
A wide range of services available and where resources can easily be found depending on the age group you are teaching. Most local councils have been cut back severely in terms of head count, so the likelihood of anyone being able to speak to your students is not great. However, websites contain a wide range of information to help you plan local investigations, such as:
- people-focused services – reports investigating population trends (including age and sex distribution), housing needs and management, including housing trends and demand, and transport
- infrastructure-focused services – such as road quality (main roads are often dealt with by the Highways Agency rather than local roads)
- environmental services – such as waste collection and management, recycling, responses to emergencies such as pollution incidents or fly-tipping
- monitoring services, such as air quality
- the economy – reports on current trends in employment, unemployment, the council area’s largest employers
- planning – both general (planning policies and guidance) and specific (applications for property or land use for which permission is sought for future development)
- housing – including policies and provision for affordable housing
- ‘green’ policies – e.g. declarations of climate emergencies, or policies to increase biodiversity, or develop transition movement policies (for example ‘local pound’ or green transport policies in Bristol or Totnes). Policies to encourage local markets
- local economic development policies e.g. those designed to encourage tourism or high tech businesses, and grants to encourage new employment.
There are many services which are no longer run by central or local government, but which have been contracted out to government-funded agencies. This particularly applies to large-budget items such as flood management. These include:
- The Environment Agency (EA) – includes content about environmental incidents, fisheries, boating and waterways, environmental permits, flooding and coastal change, flood warnings, river levels and flood risk maps, and waste. Find out what the EA does here
- Other services which were once provided by local governments include housing. There are still over 4 million council houses in England and Wales, but such social housing is now managed by charities or third sector organisations such as Housing Associations. For these, it is best to search online for ‘Social housing in my area’. Shelter is an example of a housing issues charity
- The role played by charities and voluntary services in providing services to the local community – e.g. in health (Macmillan Cancer Support and other homecare charities), social care (companies and charities which provide homecare visits for the elderly or disabled)
- The range of activities in a village or urban community for local interest groups (local history, local activity groups, ramblers’ groups, mother-and-child groups etc)
Services and organisations in your own community
- A library or museum: these offer a wide number of services which could be useful in setting up fieldwork visits. Visit first to see what might be possible
- Neighbourhood watch schemes and local community policing. Find your nearest Neighbourhood Watch scheme
These keep an archive of material and reports which can often be accessed. There may well be parish newsletters which could provide starting points for investigation.
Do you have school connections (parents, governors etc) with your local services?
A local sewage farm
- Its operation and how it works, the laws with which it has to comply, the challenges it faces in future
A local railway station / bus station
- How far a ‘sphere of influence’ does this station serve? What services are available around the station (e.g. café, parking)? Does the cost of parking provide difficulties for side streets in the area of the station?
The local highways dept
- The services it provides such as looking after roads, gritting in icy conditions, planning road works in your area etc. Many have a pothole alert line!
Visit to a local churchyard and church
- How is the churchyard organised – i.e. where are the oldest and most recent graves?
- How do the ages and backgrounds of those whose lives are marked by older gravestones differ from more recent gravestones?
- What links are there between gravestones and local geology?
- A contrasting visit to a different burial place (e.g. of different faiths, or ethnicities, or urban / rural contrast)
A local community centre
- The services it provides, and the people for whom it provides these services
A local tourist attraction
- E.g. an owl sanctuary, or donkey sanctuary
A local radio station or TV company
- Its territory that it serves, how far it is a part of a larger company or organisation, the distinctive services it provides compared to national organisations
A local supermarket
- How it operates, its delivery times, how it ensures that there are always products on the shelves
- What happens ‘behind the scenes’ to ensure that products are always available
- How it ensures it can meet the challenges of the busiest periods e.g. Christmas
A doctor’s surgery
- The services it provides for local people, and the territory it serves
- How many people are employed and the area from which they travel
- Its links to larger organisations
- The challenges it faces now and in the near future.
- Examples of fieldwork articles in Primary Geography from 2009 to 2021
- Using story stones in geography
- Material mapping
- Nature noticing and naming: pausing to reconnect
- Capturing Croydon
- Progression in geographical fieldwork experiences
- Mackintosh, J. (2023) Geography fieldwork – Give primary pupils a skills-packed experience. Teachwire
There are two risk assessment examples for primary and secondary below. Please note – these documents are offered in an advisory capacity only and the Geographical Association is not in any way responsible for how this is used, and it is strictly offered on that understanding. Schools must at all times maintain full responsibility for any risks whether perceived or real.