Reviewing the case for geography, and the ‘knowledge turn’ in the English National Curriculum


This article presents a framework for understanding geographical knowledge in the context of the National Curriculum in England. It offers a cautious welcome to the 2010 White Paper in that it places emphasis on teaching and the role of teachers in selecting what is taught: it is broadly sympathetic to the policy thrust which seeks to rebalance the school curriculum onto questions of subject knowledge rather than generic ‘skills’ and pedagogy. In the context of curriculum development projects in the past and a renewed case for geography in education, the article provides a critical analysis of the significance of ‘core knowledge’ in geography. It begins to show how core knowledge is distinguished from, and relates to, deeper understandings using the framework of ‘capabilities’. An appendix is included for discussion which presents a minimalist knowledge framework for geography: this raises questions about the content knowledge requirement of teachers.

 Key Notes/Ideas
  • (referring the 2010 school’s whitepaper)” its overall direction of travel in relation to the curriculum, it provides considerable potential to re-engage the teaching force with knowledge, and the fundamental curriculum question of what to teach. ” Pg243
  • Successive Ofsted subject reports on geography, including the two most recent (Ofsted 2008, 2011), provide powerful evidence to support the contention that in schools and classrooms where there is a question mark about the quality of teaching, or the level of achievement, it results from a lack of intellectual engagement in some way. It may be that the students are not given enough intellectual challenge, or in some cases, it may be that the students are not given enough intellectual challenge, or the expectations placed on them are not sufficiently demanding. In some cases it may be that the teachers themselves are not sufficiently engaged with developments in the subject discipline or in workign up topical contemporary materials; that is, teh geography itslef is ‘stuck’. For me twhat this points to is the


Lambert, D. (2011). “Reviewing the case for geography, and the ‘knowledge turn’ in the English National Curriculum.” The Curriculum Journal 22(2): 243-264.