Research into student teachers' perceptions, attitudes and prior experiences of learning suggests that these experiences can exert an influence on practice which can be relatively undisturbed by their initial teacher education. This article is based on the initial findings of an all-Ireland survey of all first-year students on B.Ed. courses in colleges in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland. The survey is the first stage in a longitudinal study which will follow the same cohort of students for the duration of their initial teacher education, seeking to map and track the development of their ideas about teaching and learning in primary history, geography and science. Based on an analysis of the quantitative data in the entry questionnaire, the initial findings suggest that subject knowledge remains a problematic issue in initial teacher education and that both location and gender interact with knowledge, attitudes and subject area to produce a complex and challenging context for teacher educators in history, geography and science education.