“Not to know what took place before you were born is to remain forever a child”. CICERO
We believe that the study of History is a vital element in the modern curriculum because it enables us to pursue the essential educational aims and objectives which are set out below and which form part of the school’s efforts to provide our pupils with a broad, liberal education and to develop in them skills and interests which will benefit them in all aspects of their future life.
INTENT: The History curriculum at Sir Roger Manwood’s School aims to provide students with the skills necessary to better understand the complexity of people’s lives. Students are taught about the challenges of their time through a study of the process of change and are equipped with a deeper understanding of the diversity of societies and relationships between different groups. As such, the History department seeks to complement wider school and societal objectives and lessons are designed to encourage debate and dialogue through questioning. Students are challenged to ask perceptive questions, think critically, weigh evidence, sift arguments, and develop perspective and judgement. The History curriculum is designed to stimulate interest in the subject of History and to develop key skills through the vehicle of the content selected. It also aims to ensure that students excel in public examinations. The History department organises visits to historical sites with the aim of inspiring pupils’ curiosity to know more about the past (in recent years these have included trips to the Somme battlefields and Berlin).
The History Department at Sir Roger Manwood’s School is aware that the purpose of history has been much debated. An understanding of History helps us better understand the world in which we live and can teach lessons that enable us to avoid repeating mistakes. It can help create a more tolerant society through better understanding of different cultures. The study of History provides an awareness of different forms of leadership, political systems, societies, and economies. Research into the world in which we live can also provide a clearer sense of our own identity.
The History curriculum is regularly reviewed. Recently there has been a particular focus on ‘diversity’ and ‘de-colonisation’. The aim has been about empowerment and blending the narratives of marginalised groups (gender, race, religion etc.) into the history curriculum. The curriculum taught challenges the white history narrative but seeks to avoid a narrative of victimhood. A more inclusive history curriculum has been developed by weaving these narratives into courses already taught so not to undermine its coherency and to ensure that it is not tokenistic.
IMPLEMENTATION: Students are taught History in form groups at KS3 and in classes as an option at both GCSE and A Level. The department broadly follows the National Curriculum. The approach has been to deliver full courses e.g. Tudors and Stuarts at Year 8 rather than to deliver the subject through smaller topics or projects. The sequencing of courses taught and the courses themselves are a deliberate choice following on from Intent. We acquaint pupils with key skills and concepts at the start of Year 7 and pick them up during the Roman and Medieval courses. This content is taught partly because it promotes engagement – it is interesting – and because of its significance in establishing European and British identity. The work set is deliberately varied over Key Stage 3 – comprehension style tasks, verbal questioning, projects, research tasks as well as evidence questions and essays. What matters is less what skill is addressed at any point, but that there is development from previous work. Skills are never simply ‘done’ rather the responses become more sophisticated as knowledge and understanding develop together with the maturity of the student. Why did peace fail in the late 1930s? works as a Year 9 activity and the basis of a very challenging Phd.
There is more exam awareness in terms of activities and the shape of lessons as students move through the GCSE course. The heavy content element of the History course means that student familiarity with exams is particularly important. Regular tests feature during the entire course. This is balanced with an approach to lessons that stresses student engagement and interest. This is supported by experienced and qualified teachers who not only ‘know the stuff’ but are well placed to keep students motivated. That said, work is more likely to be written and expectations of students are high.
At A Level there is, naturally, a greater expectation of student engagement and work outside the lesson. Nearly all substantive work is done outside the classroom, and, in many ways, the learning journey is a partnership between student and teacher. Fact tests feature and questions may be set on core texts in order to support all students.
Many lessons at each Key Stage are teacher led and formal in approach. Texts are used routinely at Key Stage 3 and 4, whilst providing a supporting role at A Level. Powerpoints are a valid teaching tool and are used together with appropriate digital material. The point of all of this is to engage students and enable them to succeed.
IMPACT: Recent parental and student questionnaires have suggested good levels of satisfaction with the subject. Most students choose to study History at GCSE and high numbers opt to study history at A Level. Public exam analysis demonstrates that the department manages to add positive value based on the methods used.
The Year begins with a unit on ’What is History?’ Concepts such as chronology, empathy, evidence, and bias are discussed and re-enforced with class activities. This is followed by a course on Ancient Rome. Students consolidate the skills and concepts introduced during the introductory unit. For instance, narrative (Hannibal’s invasion of Rome) is covered together with evidence skills. Cause and consequence tend to feature in a wide variety of class discussions as well as forming the basis of much written work. The Medieval Britain topic follows Rome. Here there are some important concepts (such as feudalism and manorialism) that develop the challenge presented in the Rome course. The process of change is explored when examining the development of castle design and students investigate the impact of disease on medieval society (Black Death). An exploration of the role of religion is included with a nod towards aspects on the Year 8 Tudor course as well as GCSE (Henry VIII).
In Year 8 students begin with a course on Tudor and Stuart Britain. The early Tudors were important in terms of the role of religion and with aspects of government. Again, the familiar concepts of causation, empathy, and consequence figure large. The assessment task on the Spanish Armada is a deliberate step on from anything pupils would have done in Year 7. Not only are they given a significant amount of content, but they must marshal argument and deliver it in a coherent form. There is a much greater expectation in terms of the organisation and coherence of written communication in Year 8.
This is followed by a course on ‘Expansion, Trade and Industry’ focused on the 18th and 19th centuries still using aspects of social and economic history as its driver (including the Industrial Revolution and the British Empire). The focus on social and economic history provides ample opportunities to develop a more sophisticated understanding of empathy. The skills of evidence are used in investigations of working conditions, agricultural change, transport, and slavery.
In Year 9 students study the Twentieth Century, providing them with an understanding of the extent to which the modern world has been shaped by the events of that period. The course begins with an in-depth study of WW1. This attempts to acquaint students with some of the key features of the conflict. The assessment task on the Somme is a source-based exercise; preparing students for the style of questions they would face at GCSE.
The course on WW2 looks at the wider aspects of the conflict as well as some of the key battles. It is also an opportunity to examine the greater impact of war on the civilian population than occurred during earlier conflicts. The assessment task on Leningrad provides an empathy exercise.
The final part of the year is given over to a course on terrorism. The extent to which terrorism is a part of the modern world has meant that a unit covering it has wide relevance. As well as an historical perspective we try to discuss the impact of terrorism on the UK as well as exploring the threats current today.
A driving element in the Year 9 course has been to ensure that those students who do not continue with History are left with an understanding of the world today. Direct overlap with content at GCSE is minimal but vital background has been stressed, e.g. WW1 for the rise of the Nazis and WW2 for the Cold War.
We also look at aspects of local history during Key Stage 3, taking advantage of the wealth of opportunities for local history in the area.
At the start of Year 10 students study the Cold War, looking at the growth in tension between East and West at the end of WW2. Topics include the Berlin Airlift, the Hungarian Uprising, the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Prague Spring, and the consequences of the collapse of the USSR.
The Cold War is followed by a unit on Henry VIII and his ministers. This unit builds upon knowledge and understanding of the Tudor period taught in Year 8. This unit focuses on one of the most dramatic periods of British History and looks at how England was ruled, as well as explaining the changes in religion and Henry’s relationship with his ministers (including Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell). The assessment pattern on the unit is similar to the Cold War course, which helps build confidence as students are not immediately challenged with new assessment requirements.
The Changing Nature of Warfare is taught for the remainder of the year. Students look at the ways society has been influenced by warfare through a study of some of the most dramatic events in British history. The course is thematic and allows a focus on change and continuity across a wide period of history.
Students look at Weimar and Nazi Germany at the start of Year 11. They study the establishment of the Weimar Republic in Germany from the wreckage of WW1 and look at the problems facing the new regime. Germany’s partial recovery in the 1920s was ended by the crisis of the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the World Depression, and students’ study how these events contributed to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party. The course ends with an investigation of the ways in which the Nazis ruled the country up to 1939, considering what life was like for ordinary Germans.
The GCSE course finishes with a study of London during the Blitz. This depth study is largely source based.
History at A Level is made up of four courses. Two are studied during Year 12 and the other two during Year 13. The exams for three of the courses takes place at the end of Year 13, the other one is assessed as coursework.
Students study two contrasting periods of History at Year 12: The early Stuarts and the origins of the Civil War, 1603-1660 and the USA in the 19th Century: Westward Expansion and Civil War, 1803-1890.
The Stuart England course looks at one of the most dramatic episodes of our history. It begins by exploring the religious, financial, and foreign policy challenges faced by James I. The causes of the English Civil War and the war itself are then studied before students deal with the trial and execution of Charles I in January 1649. The course then goes on to examine the 1650s – the only period in which England did not have a monarch. Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector in 1653 and went on to produce our only written constitution. The controversial campaign by Cromwell in Ireland and his frequent problems with parliament are important themes of the course.
The American course deals with the growth of the nation from the original colonies on the east coast to the huge nation that it became by the end of the century. The pursuit of the American Dream and the opportunities created by the land of the West helped shape the superpower that we know today. The divisions between North and South over slavery led to civil war in 1861 and a struggle that nearly destroyed the new country. The dramatic stories of the war are brought alive through the magnetic personalities that helped shape American destiny at this time – the likes of Lincoln, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant.
The Year 13 course is made up of a thematic study of either Britain and Ireland 1791—1921 or Russia and its rulers 1855—1964.
The Ireland option looks at the 1798 rebellion which led to a series of failed attempts to run Ireland from Westminster and the growth of a militant nationalism in Ireland by 1914. The Easter rebellion of 1916 and the birth of the IRA are looked at in terms of what was happening at the end of WW1. The final part of the course considers the basis of the Treaty between Ireland and Britain in 1922.
The Russia option follows the turbulent history of Russia from Alexander II and the abolition of serfdom, through the upheavals of the communist revolution, and the dictatorship of Stalin. Few countries have experienced such a traumatic century and students are able to contrast the rule of the Tsars to that of Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev.
History is unusual in retaining coursework at A Level. The coursework involves writing an extended essay of 3000–4000 words on the Third Reich, arising from independent study and research. Areas which students might wish to investigate for their essay include the Holocaust, Hitler’s leadership, and society in the Third Reich.