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Fieldwork is widely regarded as an essential component of geography education and a well planned field trip can be one of the most memorable parts of a student's time at school.

However, organising fieldwork can be daunting for the inexperienced. This page has been put together to point you in the right direction for further information and guidance about learning outside the classroom.

Find out about the GA's Fieldwork and Outdoor Learning Special Interest Group >>>

Resources and Links


Fieldwork Through Enquiry

This book provides ten worked examples of projects which can be used with young people outside the classroom: five that are based in towns and cities, and five which explore rural or coastal contexts.

It has taken some ‘traditional’ activities and locations and added some new ideas and techniques. The enquiry approach underpins all the activities in this book. Each chapter is framed as a fieldwork investigation based on a single question, with alternative questions that could be answered using the same techniques. Buy the book here.

The Geographical Association and the Field Studies Council have produced the Fieldwork File for use in conjunction with LEA guidelines. All fieldwork should be enjoyable and inspirational. The aim of the Fieldwork File packs is to offer teachers in each phase suggestions for stimulating, practical, informative and enjoyable fieldwork in a range of accessible environments.

The first part of the set is 'Setting the standards - for safe, successful fieldwork for all', a free poster setting out a code of practice for fieldwork across all key stages. Download the poster.

Managing Safe and Successful Fieldwork provides clear, comprehensive and practical guidance about the conduct of all out-of-classroom activities, and should prove a useful reference book for all teachers. Buy from the GA shop. For information and advice about outdoor learning in the specific phases try Fieldwork File: For the primary years or Fieldwork File: For the secondary years.

The GA has published a number of other resources relating to fieldwork, all of which can can be purchased from the geography shop. Try typing 'fieldwork' into the shop search.

Fieldtrip Guidance Document

This document, prepared by Alan Parkinson, the GA's Secondary Curriculum Development Leader, suggests some strategies to deal with rarely cover arrangements which came into operation on 1 September 2009, as outlined in this Guardian article. It might be helpful to refer to this document when having discussions with senior management on the issue of trips and cover.

Fieldwork – an essential part of a geographical education (PDF)

If you want to discuss this further with colleagues, head over to the fieldtrip guidance forum on the Geographical Association Ning.

On the GA Website

Young Geographers

The Young Geographers project was a three-month pilot project funded by the TDA, which aimed to support teachers in planning for and carrying out a short unit of work with a focus on Living Geography.

Teachers were asked to design some locality fieldwork, thinking about aspects of ESD and personalising planning to suit their school context.

Eight individual school projects are presented on the GA website and each includes downloadable resources and information about how the units of work were conceived.

Online training courses

The GA website contains a range of online CPD units which help primary teachers introduce fieldwork activities into their teaching:


Making Geography Happen

Making Geography Happen is funded by the Action Plan for Geography which centres around good quality, innovative curriculum-making. The Making Geography Happen project develops this to focus on work done by students in geography lessons and how it contributes to their wider understanding of the world.

The 'A Village Comparison' project which took place at Perton First School in Staffordshire contains a strong fieldwork element, and materials from the unit of work are available to download from the Making Geography Happen area.

Fieldwork in a Different View

The GA's manifesto, a Different View, includes a section on the topic of geography fieldwork. Download: Geography and the 'Real World'

GTIP Think Pieces

These think pieces have been written for geography teacher trainers but include information and links that will be of use to everyone:

Primary Fieldwork
Ben Steel offers advice on delivering sessions on the value and practicalities of geography fieldwork to primary PGCE students.

Secondary Fieldwork
Teresa Lenton indicates how, despite the fact that fieldwork forms an essential element of geography education, not all trainee teachers will be involved in fieldwork during placements. Teresa explains how early engagement with this approach will ensure that they understand the significance of effective fieldwork to young people's experience of geographical education.

21st Century Fieldwork

This PowerPoint presentation accompanied the lecture given by Nick Lapthorn, Head of Juniper Hall Field Centre, at the GA Surrey schools cluster group meeting on Monday 15 June 2009. It explores new approaches to, and methods of, fieldwork. Please note that this is a large file and may take some time to download, depending on the speed of your internet connection.

Download: 21st Century Fieldwork 

Secondary Geography Handbook Cover
GA members can view a chapter about real world learning through geographical fieldwork from the Secondary Geography Handbook for free.

Download Chapter >>>

Prepare for Controlled Assessment with the FSC

Field Studies Council (FSC) have a wide range of geography fieldwork courses for all ages, with content developed specifically to link to curriculum requirements. They inspire young people to better understand their world by providing outstanding experiences through innovative teaching practices and with high levels of confidence and expertise.

Full details about FSC fieldwork can be found here.

They also offer professional training for teachers and PGCE students.

Frederick Soddy Awards

Around one hundred pupils from Thomas Walling Primary School were treated to a special field trip along the north-east coast thanks to funding from the Frederick Soddy Trust. They walked from Bamburgh to Seahouses, visited Alnwick Castle and sailed out to the Farne Islands!

Deputy Head Derek Gott sent a thank you letter to the Trust, together with a report produced by the pupils. View an adapted version of the letter.

If you feel inspired by Thomas Walling's fieldtrip, why not apply for a Frederick Soddy Award for your school? Every year five awards of between £250 and £850 are given to primary and secondary schools to encourage students of all ages to participate in field studies.

Further information about the scheme is available on the Frederick Soddy Fieldwork Funding page.

John Muir Award

The John Muir Award can be used to support and encourage fieldwork, outdoor learning, and the geography curriculum.

In this Year of Fieldwork, this Autumn 2015 GA Magazine article shows how you can use the John Muir Award to enhance your fieldwork at your school.

The John Muir Award is an environmental award scheme that encourages people to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places. It’s free to use, and open to people from all backgrounds. It is the main engagement initiative of the John Muir Trust.

Four challenges are at the heart of each John Muir Award. To achieve an Award each participant must:

  • discover a wild place - this can be school grounds, local park, beach, mountain or national park
  • explore it – do things to increase awareness and understanding
  • conserve – take some practical action and personal responsibility
  • share your experiences.

It offers a flexible framework in which the activities identified by a participating school, college, or youth organisation can be tailored to meet the needs of the group, the wild place(s) chosen and the curriculum. It is an individual Award that can be used with class groups, whole year groups, and small groups of learners, individuals and families.

For more information visit the John Muir Award website.

Manifesto for Learning Outside the Classroom

The Manifesto for Learning Outside the Classroom was launched by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on 28 November 2006.

The Manifesto is a 'movement' or joint undertaking that many different stakeholders have helped to create and to which anyone can sign up. The GA has endorsed the Manifesto because we believe it will help to ensure that all children and young people have a variety of high quality experiences outside the classroom environment, as an essential part of their learning and development.

There is also a Quality Badge scheme; these will be awarded to providers who have pledged to engage in an ongoing process to sustain high-quality learning outside the classroom.

Visit: Learning Outside the Classroom website


Fieldwork on the Geography Teaching Today website
The Action Plan for Geography is working with teachers to improve the breadth and quality of fieldwork in our schools. Explore these pages of the GTT website for resources and advice for fieldwork.

Teaching Ideas on the Geography Teaching Today website
A variety of teaching ideas developed by participants on the GA's curriculum-making courses are available to download from the GTT website - several of these are based around fieldwork activities.

Field Studies Council
The FSC is the place to go for information about fieldwork including study visit packages, activity days, publications, CPD courses, and health and safety advice. The website also includes A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning - an overview of fieldwork in an educational context published in 2004.

Growing Schools
The Growing Schools website has been designed to support teachers in using the 'outdoor classroom' as a resource across the curriculum for pupils of all ages.

Learning through Landscape
Learning through Landscapes helps schools and early years settings make the most of their outdoor spaces for play and learning.

Virtual fieldwork at GeoResources
A geography teachers' resource website featuring a selection of 'virtual fieldwork' units.

Youth Hostel Association
The YHA offers tailor-made field studies packages for primary and secondary schools.

Projects, Articles and Reports

TES Articles

'Curriculum field trips - It's time to boldly go...'
Taking pupils outside the comfort of the classroom can be a daunting step for some teachers, says Carolyn Fry. But field trips provide unique opportunities to apply learning to the real world. (2009)

'Playing the wild card'
Trips to the great outdoors can add fun and value to learning, as well as boosting geography's profile in schools, says Leszek Iwaskow. (2005)

'Play the field'
The fieldwork experience is about so much more than geography: friendships, hostel food and the student who is always last back. Keith Grimwade on a fun way to learn. (1996)

'Field trials'
Justin Dillon and Mark Rickinson review the evidence on the impact of outdoor learning in school geography. (2004)

'Fieldwork may soon be extinct'
The lack of outdoor study threatens the next generation of biologists. Cherry Canovan reports. (2002)

'Fears over fieldwork'
Abolishing coursework could put an end to vital hands-on investigations. Adi Bloom reports. (2006)

Long Live Fieldwork!

In this article Paula Richardson, Geography Advisor and member of the GA Field Studies Working Group, argues the case for outdoor learning and suggests ways in which fieldwork could be made more manageable for teachers.


Engaging and Learning with the Outdoors

During 2004-05 a team from The National Foundation for Education Research (NFER), the University of Bath and King's College London carried out research focusing on 'the processes and impacts and the planning and evaluation of outdoor learning'. In order to identify examples of effective practice, the team observed outdoor learning in a variety of environments. For further information about the project and a downloadable copy of the final report (April 2005), visit the NFER website.

NFER Research

Research shows that good quality education outside the classroom can promote cognitive, personal and social development and add depth to the curriculum. NFER has been commissioned by the DfES, in collaboration with the Countryside Agency and Farming and Countryside Education (FACE), to undertake research which aims to obtain a greater understanding this area of education, in terms of the extent and nature of provision across curriculum areas, across schools and across local authorities. It will involve surveys of, and telephone interviews with, teachers in 2400 randomly selected primary, secondary and special schools. (added 11.04.06)

National Trust Report

The National Trust has released a report entitled 'Changing Minds: The Lasting Impact of School Trips', the result of years of research into the long-term benefits of educational visits. Main findings of the report include the importance of school trips in connecting children with nature, influencing career and study choices, forming family and community bonds, and developing social and practical skills. Further information and a full copy of the report are available on the National Trust website.

A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning

In 2003 the Field Studies Council and several partner organisations commissioned a review of research into outdoor learning. The Review consisted of an academic survey carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) over a six month period and considered 150 pieces of research drawn from Britain, USA, Canada and Australia. At the time the review was published it caused quite a stir.

Margaret E Marker and David Cooper independently assessed the Review and produced a document entitled Comments On: A Review Of Research On Outdoor Learning.

Their main criticisms of the review are that the time period was far too short and many of the publications included had no clearly expressed aims and no survey of effectiveness.

They were concerned that the review’s emphasis was too much on aims and outcomes and did not reflect the full range of benefits from fieldwork including: Cognitive Affective (attitudes, belief and values and self perception) and Physical/Skill (fitness and socialisation).

They challenge some of the observations of the report especially that:

  1. Young teachers have had little experience of fieldwork so feel insecure,
  2. Young teachers fear of loss of control,

and they question the effect of the National Curriculum, SATS testing, League tables, and Modular teaching at AS & AL on fieldwork provision.

Finally, they suggest that time out of school seems to be seen as loss of education and not as enrichment.

To read an executive summary of the Review of Research on Outdoor Learning or to purchase a full copy, visit the Field Studies Council website.

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1 Comment

Paul Baker

Paul Baker GA Member

I am leading Fieldwork Expedition to Sabah Rainforest in Borneo in July 2011. Have filled in survey and hopefully would like to see more students involved in Outdoor Learning through Geographical Fieldwork.

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