At St Elizabeth’s, we aim for children to have acquired the essential characteristics of geographers:

  • An excellent knowledge of where places are and what they are like.
  • An excellent understanding of the ways in which places are interdependent and interconnected and how much human and physical environments are interrelated.
  • An extensive base of geographical knowledge and vocabulary.
  • Fluency in complex geographical enquiry and the ability to apply questioning skills and use effective analytical and presentational techniques.
  • The ability to reach clear conclusions and develop a reasoned argument to explain findings.
  • Significant levels of originality, imagination or creativity as shown in interpretations and representations of the subject matter.
  • Highly developed and frequently utilised fieldwork and other geographical skills and techniques.
  • A passion for and commitment to the subject, and a real sense of curiosity to find out about the world and the people who live there.
  • The ability to express well-balanced opinions, rooted in very good knowledge and understanding about current and contemporary issues in society and the environment.


Curriculum drivers shape our curriculum breadth in geography. They are derived from an exploration of the backgrounds of our students, our beliefs about high quality education and our values. They are used to ensure we give our students appropriate and ambitious curriculum opportunities. Our curriculum drivers are community, spirituality, culture, democracy and possibilities.

Cultural capital gives our students the vital background knowledge required to be informed and thoughtful members of our community who understand and believe in British values.

Curriculum breadth is shaped by our curriculum drivers, cultural capital, subject topics and our ambition for students to study the best of what has been thought and said by many generations of academics and scholars.

Our curriculum distinguishes between subject topics and ‘Curriculum Themes’. Subject topics are the specific aspects of subjects that are studied.

Curriculum Themes tie together the subject topics into meaningful schema. The same concepts are explored in a wide breadth of topics. Through this ‘forwards-and-backwards engineering’ of the curriculum, students return to the same concepts over and over and gradually build understanding of them.

In geography, these Curriculum Themes are:

  • Locational Knowledge (understanding the geographical location of places and their physical and human features)
  • Place Knowledge (Understanding geographical similarities and differences of contrasting places)
  • Human and Physical Geography (Understanding the relationships between the physical features of places and the human activity within them, and the appreciation of how the world’s natural resources are used and transported)
  • Geographical Skills and Fieldwork (Understanding geographical representations, vocabulary and techniques).

Golden Threads

These ‘Golden Threads’ help students to relate each topic to previously studied topics and to form strong, meaningful schema.

In Geography these Golden Threads include:

  • Location
  • Physical features
  • Human Features
  • Diversity
  • Physical Processes
  • Human Processes
  • Techniques.

Cognitive science tells us that working memory is limited and that cognitive load is too high if students are rushed through content. This limits the acquisition of long-term memory. Cognitive science also tells us that in order for students to become creative thinkers or have a greater depth of understanding they must first master the basics, which takes time.


For each of the Curriculum Themes, learning is planned by year group, each of which includes the procedural knowledge and Golden Threads in each Topic, giving students a way of expressing their understanding of the Curriculum Themes.

Cognitive Domains

Within each year group, students gradually progress in their procedural fluency and semantic strength through three cognitive domains: Remembering, Knowing and Reasoning. The goal for students is to display sustained mastery at the ‘Knowing’ stage of understanding by the end of each phase (Key Stage 1, Lower Key Stage 2 and Upper Key Stage 2) and for the most able to have a greater depth of understanding at the ‘Reasoning’ stage.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Strategies

As part of our progression model we use a different pedagogical style in each of the cognitive domains of Remembering, Knowing and Understanding. This is based on the research of Sweller, Kirschner and Rosenshine who argue to direct instruction in the early stages of learning and discovery-based approaches later. We use direct instruction in the ‘Remembering’ domain and problem-based discovery in the ‘Reasoning’ domain. This is called the reversal effect.

Our curriculum design is based on evidence from cognitive science; three main principles underpin it:

  1. Learning is most effective with spaced repetition.
  2. Retrieval of previously learned content is frequent and regular, which increases both storage and retrieval strength.
  3. By revisiting Golden Threads, pupils are able to build a strong schema, and develop skills as a geographer.

In addition to the three principles, we also understand that learning is invisible in the short-term and that sustained mastery takes time.

Our content is subject specific. We make intra-curricular links to strengthen schema.

Continuous provision, in the form of daily routines, replaces the teaching of some aspects of the curriculum and, in other cases, provides retrieval practice for previously learned content.