Pupils at Hexham Middle School undertake historical and geographic studies in the subject of Explore. As a humanities-based subject, it falls under a family of subjects on the curriculum with a vision to ‘Explore the past, consider the present and discover the future’. By the very nature of the subject’s name, we intend our pupils to ‘travel through the learning’ with an inquiring mind. On this journey we want our pupils to have many opportunities to discuss what they are learning with others; this develops their oracy and ultimately the ability to talk like budding historians and geographers.

We expect our pupils to develop secure knowledge of a range of geographical and historical contexts. Our aim is to embed an implicit value for the subject so that this can unlock an awareness and understanding of their past, present and future world.

We look to exploit our rich, cultural, local context in the north east of England. In Key Stage 2, pupils’ studies will make reference to a range of significant historical and geographical elements that can be found on our doorstep, including Hexham.

As developing historians we expect our pupils to gain knowledge and experience: to help investigate and interpret the past; to build an overview for aspects of world history; to understand chronology; and to be able communicate historically. As a geographer, we expect our pupils to gain knowledge and experience: in the concepts of location and place; human and physical geography; and geographical skills and field investigation. More detailed information is set out in our Age Related Expectations (AREs) document.

There is an intentional teaching and learning sequence in the subject as we see this helps the process of unlocking pupils’ powerful knowledge and experience. For more information on the units of study, see the ‘Sequence of Learning’ section below.

Year 5

In geography, pupils begin to ‘explore, consider and discover’ the role of ordnance survey, historical maps and aerial photographs. We believe the ability to interpret these sources of information is essential for geographers. We seek to build upon and strengthen previous knowledge and understanding, gained in lower Key Stage 2. In the first term, pupils will also study The Shang Dynasty, providing an opportunity to explore an ancient civilisation.

Acquisition of knowledge and skills in this unit then allows for an application in their ‘synergy’ unit in the spring term; this combines the spheres of history and geography. Pupils study The Age of the Aztecs as well as the continent of North America. Pupils will come back to explore aspects of North America in year 8 history, when they study about The Slave Trade, The Industrial and French Revolution. We finish year 5 Explore with a study of ‘Crime and Punishment’. This unit provides a great foundation for future school studies in religious studies, PSHE, and Key Stage 3 History. We capitalise, by way of a school visit, the fantastic local facility of Hexham Gaol to help pupils discover more about crime in the Tyne Valley. Pupils will gain different historical perspectives using sources that are exhibited.

Year 6

We start year 6 by exploring the historical event of World War 2. This unit provides excellent opportunities to strengthen pupils’ historical skills. A particular focus in placed on the effective use of different sources. We provide pupils with the chance to experience sources for Northumberland Archives. We want pupils to refine their ability to talk like a historian, in year 6, and understand the cultural and economic benefits of studying history. During our spring term, pupils explore the theme of ‘Water World’ which builds knowledge about resource management. Our proximity to the River Tyne and Kielder Water provide an excellent backdrop to discover the impacts of humans’ historical and geographical interventions. In Key Stage 3 geography, pupils will gain a greater level of knowledge of further resource management. We finish year 6 with a ‘synergy’ unit, titled ‘Scandinavia and Vikings’ combines the geographical study of a European region and its respective ancient civilisation. Pupils are able to apply the knowledge and disciplinary literacy gained in the Crime and Punishment unit in year 5, when considering the history and life of Vikings in their conquests, formerly of the north east of England and then the rest of modern-day Britain. We give pupils the opportunity to draw parallels with their year 5 ancient civilisation unit.


A fundamental approach to learning in Explore is based on the skill of questioning. We believe strongly in pupils developing an enquiring mind. To appreciate aspects of the past, present and future, we need pupils to be self-reflecting and curious of the world around us. Through the application of targeted questioning in lessons, by both teacher and pupil, gains in securing knowledge can be maximised.

Pupils are encouraged to be enthusiastic about their learning, engaging in a variety of activities including field visits.  Collaboration and critical thinking help underpin strong knowledge foundations. In an Explore classroom, focused talk will be evident in abundance. A strong framework for oracy and disciplinary literacy is vital to enable our pupils to talk like historians and geographers, and then write both concisely and in depth, as required in both disciplines. We place great emphasis on expanding their subject-specific word hoard, with the intention that these can be applied in different contexts across the school. Similarly, pupils are expected to take pride in their own learning, producing quality artefacts.  This will be demonstrated by their engagement with classroom activities as well as their written outcomes.  


To gauge whether our curriculum is delivering the goods for our pupils, we use on-going formative assessment, in the form of teacher feedback and pupil responses. Throughout the year, teachers will use the subjects age related expectations to structure feedback to pupils, ensuring that the actions taken by the teacher is developing the pupil as an historian or geographer. Halfway through the academic year, we carry out an interim summative assessment; we do not however expect these to be inherently high stakes in nature. A pupil’s performance in these assessments will be a reflection of what knowledge they have retained and are able to recall, along with the application of historical and geographical skills. The summative assessment takes place during a pupil’s synergy unit in the spring term. This data helps to inform next steps for potential intervention. Teachers will review a pupil’s performance to help identify areas of specific improvement. The combination of formative and summative assessment helps inform a child’s ‘working at grade’, which will be reported to parents/carers. At the end of each year, pupils will complete a terminal assessment, designed to build upon the interim assessment, applying knowledge and skills acquired in the second half of the year.

Sequence of Learning

Autumn Term

  1. Aerial Photographs, Ordnance Surveys and Historical mapping (Geography)
  2. The Shang Dynasty

Spring Term

Aztecs and North America (synergy unit).

Summer Term

Crime and Punishment (History – Hexham Gaol Trip).

Autumn Term

World War 2 (History – National Archives engagement).

Spring Term

Water World (Geography – Field Study Trip).

Summer Term

Scandinavia and Vikings (synergy unit).