Charney Manor Statement on Primary Geography 2021
29 March 2021

We are pleased to publicize the Charney Manor Primary Geography Conference Statement 2021 which reflects many aspects of the thinking behind Humanities 20:20 particularly from a geography perspective


The Charney Manor Primary Geography Conference is a unique and independent forum that brings together practitioners from different walks of life with diverse experience of primary geography education in a variety of international settings. This statement is intended as our contribution to an on-going debate about geography education, particularly with regard to primary age children, and the future of the subject in a fast-changing world.

General Principles

Geography makes an essential contribution to children’s education. Not only does geography develop children’s sense of belonging and place knowledge, it makes a unique contribution to their understanding of the world and how it is changing. At a time of growing planetary crises, we believe a deep understanding of the reciprocal relationship between people and their environment is ever more important for primary age children and that geographical concepts and spatial awareness provide a unique and essential perspective on current realities. More specifically:

  • we believe that geography contributes to children’s health and well-being as well as their cognitive and social development
  • we value and seek more effectively to include the contributions whichchildren bring and make to their geographical education
  • we recognise that the geography curriculum has changed remarkably little over the last century and that there is now a need for new thinking and different strategies
  • we see an on-going need to decolonise global learning and work towards better informed international understanding
  • we reaffirm the importance of signature pedagogies such as fieldwork, mapwork and enquiry which have stood the test of time and are the hallmark of effective, high quality geography
  • we believe there is significant potential for new approaches in geography which embrace notions such as divergence, disruption, enchantment, hope, imaginiation, creativity, crticiality, humility and confident uncertainty.

The 2021 Conference

The 2021 conference, undertaken at a time of lockdown and conducted virtually, attracted 62 attendees (more than double the previous year). It was the 24th conference in a series that dates back to 1995. The delegates came from different parts of the UK, Canada and the Republic of Ireland and ranged from established researchers and teacher
educators to early career practitioners. Through diverse presentations and subsequent discussion, and building on the principles and themes outlined in previous years, the conference affirmed the following:

  • Geography involves children going out into the world and applying ideas in practice. This means it should be seen as an active or ‘doing’ subject, just like music, science, art and PE.
  • By experiencing the local area, geography builds children’s sense of belonging and place attachment. This is especially important at a time of lockdown when children’s physical and mental welfare are crucial issues and their identity may have been undermined.
  • We affirm the importance of different forms of knowing which go beyond the purely cognitive to embrace social understanding, emotional awareness, mindfulness and mystery.
  • We recognise that by exploring what it means to be human as part of the wider planet, geography helps to empower children to think and act sustainably.
  • We believe that geography should focus on current events and explore ‘dangerous’ issues, such as the legacy of colonialism, rather than treading cautiously around them.
  • Instead of deficit thinking which sees current school cohorts as damaged by the global pandemic, we believe this is the time to celebrate and draw strength from the way that children and teachers have adapted to changing circumstances.
  • We affirm the importance of teachers, especially subject leaders, engaging with primary geography research findings and theories and conducting their own investigations as part of their professional development.
  • We believe that interacting with the subject community at the Charney Manor conference has an important role in motivating participants and validating their practice wherever they are in their career.

These bullet points are not intended as a comprehensive statement about the value and importance of primary geography. Instead, they highlight some of the key issues that were raised by delegates at the 2021 conference. We have a deep conviction that geography offers a unique insight into what it means to be human. In the year ahead we will continue to draw attention to how geographical thinking and understanding makes an essential contribution to contemporary education through our publications, research, professional networks and daily working environments.

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