Reflections on the GA Conference 2022

Over the last few days, I’ve been delighted to join in the Geographical Association’s Annual Conference focused on ‘Everyday Geographies’.

While the return to face to face conferences has been welcomed by many, it wasn’t quite the right time for me with other work commitments, so I’ve been really grateful to have the hybrid option available.  It has been nice to work as an ‘every day’ return to the subject space, and spend time thinking about Geography amongst some of the other discussions and conversations that my professional life now contains.

As the Conference comes to an end, here are five quick reflections on what I’ve learned from spending time in this space.

(1) Hybrid Spaces – well done to the Geographical Association!

While other conferences have felt like everyone was Zoom-ing in, this felt like joining a professional conference in a real space. The schedule was really well put together, and while there was always the issue of “too many things to see!”, the quality of recording and filming was outstanding. Speakers being filmed and tracked, great microphones, and brilliant presentation of the slides while we could see the speakers – this was, hands down, the best virtual attendance that I’ve ever been part of. Great job, team!

(2) Depth, diversity and quality of speakers

I really appreciated the wide range of speakers, from all sorts of worlds. We had professional Geographers, world-class experts, and people sharing their school-based perspectives or ideas about technical resources. They shared the same lecture theatre, the same status, and have the discussions together to learn from each other. That’s been hugely exciting and powerfully inspiring.

We’ve also had a huge range of speakers in terms of participation, vision and experience – lots of first-time speakers, as well as experienced GA and RGS faces and people.

(3) Plural pathways

For whoever and whatever you are, this Conference had a lot on offer. There were sessions for new teachers, Heads of Department, teacher educators, and Geographers just wishing to expand their subject knowledge. I loved hearing from Professor Ilan Kelman, for example, masterfully exploring themes of disasters as a process not an event, but I equally benefitted from Dr John Murton’s perspective on COP26, Elena Lengthorn’s education in the climate emergency session, and experienced Geographers like Mike Simmonds and Jo Payne about subject development and support. Colleagues from different professional perspectives would all have been welcomed and found something to support, extend and challenge them.

(4) Diversity on the agenda

The theme of this year’s Conference was the ‘everyday’ of Geography, and it felt like one of the everyday realities this year was the higher profile of diversity and the deliberate challenges to racism, inequality and intolerance.

As you’d expect, the Geography community are thoughtfully engaged in these challenging spaces, and lots of the curriculum conversations, personal conversations, and storytelling have all reflected the challenges of diversity and inclusion. We saw powerful representation and stories being shared, and worked examples of how people were applying the work in their classrooms. It’s not a complete solution, and the work is nowhere near finished – but it’s great to see it visibly being done, and part of the everyday conversation on

(5) How lucky we are to have this subject community.

I now work in a professional space where I can see subjects working in very different ways – and I keep coming back to the concept that the Geography subject community is one of the very best out there.

Whether it’s the relatively collegiate approach on Twitter (most of the time), the kindness and sharing of the experts in our community, or the incredible work of the Geographical Association and the Royal Geographical Society, we’re really lucky to have the community that we do. It makes a huge difference to supporting teachers, and the work of the subject.

It’s been a real pleasure to be part of this kind of discussion and professional space again – and to be part of this wonderful community. I look forward to catching up to a number of other sessions that I couldn’t see live, and I’m hoping that we can build a library of these excellent sessions for future use for training and development of teachers and trainee teachers alike!

Perhaps I’ll see you at next year’s Conference, and have the courage to have proposed a session!

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