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Geographical enquiry


Enquiry is the process of finding out answers to questions. It is a way of investigating the world. It involves encouraging children to ask questions and search for answers. As their skills develop, children can move to a more rigorous form of enquiry involving the development and testing of hypotheses. In geography lessons, children discover the processes that lead to the outcomes that we can see. Some processes are physical ones that have happened naturally (like the way a river meanders); others are human processes (like the way a settlement develops as more buildings are erected. Meaningful learning occurs when investigations are directed by challenging questions

Effective geographical enquiry depends upon the quality of the questions posed

  • What is this place like?
  • Why is this place as it is?
  • How is this place connected to other places?
  • How is this place changing?
  • What would it feel like to live in this place?


The framework we use for a geographical enquiry has six stages:

  • Awareness raising
  • Generating questions
  • Collecting and recording information (pupils apply the mathematical skills they have learnt here)
  • Processing the gathered information
  • Drawing conclusions from the processed data
  • Sharing the conclusions
  • Evaluating what has been learnt

Here are the principal geographical enquiries that different year groups will be considering:

Year 1What happens to the rain on the ground after it has fallen?
Year 2What type of place is Barnes?
Year 3Why did brick walls keep a King happy? (Richmond Park enquiry)
Year 4How do rivers change from source to mouth? (Case study: River Thames)
Year 5Is our locality affected by noise pollution? TBC
Year 6Is San Francisco a safe place to live?


From the start of the 2016-17 academic year we instigated a focus geography day for Key Stage 2 pupils: The Country We Live In. The following topics have been studied for the last two years:

Year 3 – Coastal areas of the UK: how coastal caves, arches and stacks are formed through coastal erosion. Pupils look at some of the prominent features of the Jurassic coast. They learn about

  • ​coastal erosion (how an arch, stack or stump are formed)
  • a case study: Durdle Door in Dorset
  • the wider context: where else do these coastal processes take place in the UK?
  • compass directions.

Year 4 – Rivers of the United Kingdom: how rivers work – originating on higher ground and flowing to the sea. Key geographical features are analysed: meandering; drainage basins; ox bow lakes; erosion, transportation and deposition.

Classes look at a mystery river in the UK.  They find out how the river changes the shape of the landscape, and how meanders are formed.  There is plenty of hands-on river making in class!

Year 5 – Land use in the UK: the rise of cities – urbanisation and the growth of cities with the coming of the railways in the nineteenth century

Year 5 look at how land in the UK is used and how this has changed over time. In particular they look at how our local area developed with the arrival of the railway. Children learn about how our country has changed over time from an agricultural one to an industrial one.

Year 6 – Hills and mountains of the UK: how were valleys formed? How powerful a force is a glacier and the role of glacial erosion in the formation of landscapes.

 Year 6 study the geographical process of glaciation. They learn about the features caused by glacial erosion and look at the landscapes in the UK that have been shaped by this process. Children make their own glaciers and trying to understand why they have had such an impact on the country we live in.


How does a glacier affect the landscape? Year 6 pupils made ‘mini glaciers’ and rubbed them on surfaces, noting what happened.