Having taught now since 2008, and having been a subject lead since 2010, I have seen through a fair share of changes to the History curriculum. When I first arrived, my school was teaching a traditional KS3 system (think Romans, 1066 and all that, Medieval life in Year 7) before a GCSE and A-Level that bore no link or pathway to the GCSE. Since then, “what sort of curriculum?” has become a key part of the historical debate.
A century on from the First World War, today’s students are increasingly distanced from the lives and experiences of those who fought in the conflict. There are fewer and fewer people who can talk to grandparents and great grandparents about the war, and how it affected people living at the time, from soldiers to women and children on the Home Front.
The only time black history is celebrated is in October. This connotes a separatism between stories in history, which creates an implicit understanding of ‘our’ history and ‘their’ history. I do not agree with treating the black experience as a separate entity. The black experience should be interweaved throughout the curriculum when possible.
Despite all the educational changes that have happened since I started teaching History just under a decade ago, one thing has remained a constant. Source analysis is the hardest component for students to understand. This is part of my ‘why’ in that I do not remember any lesson in Secondary, A-level or degree that asked me to develop my ability to use sources. This may be me being incredibly disingenuous, and I am sure that any ability I have is not divined or been bestowed by anything other than practice. It may just have not been made as obvious to me it is now. Nevertheless I have constantly looked for ways to make source analysis more engaging, purposeful and develop the skills for students to engage in a real critique of sources.
Two weeks ago we shared five key dates, from September to January, that schools can use to deliver lessons that offer something different. Here, we cover February to July.
Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) is bringing history to life through its schools’ programme, designed to excite and inspire teachers and pupils through high quality learning experiences. HRP look after six major palaces in the UK, including the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace. The schools’ programme welcomes school visits from all over the world, helping students to explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built.
Working in an inner city school, History is often seen to be very irrelevant to students and therefore boring. I remember my first ever A level lesson with my Year 12s in 2015, I asked them individually ‘Why have you chosen to study History?’ The common answer was “to study Civil Rights”. The problem was that Civil Rights was part of the A2 course, which meant that they would had to wait a whole year to be taught that particular module. Therefore teaching the Tudors to a class that just wanted to learn only about black history was hard. As a result I had to ask myself: ‘How can I engage them in a topic that seems boring and irrelevant to their lives?’
What is "Big" History? For me, it’s anything that captures the imagination, enthuses or even sparks inspiration for students in a History lesson. More so, when I think "big", I think outlandish, memorable and relevant. I've done all of these in various shapes or forms;they have worked well, and I’d love to hear yours too (please comment at the foot of the article!).
The most dreaded date in the diary: the Class Assembly. When I see a note in my diary (underlined three times) reminding me ‘Two weeks until Class Assembly’, something inside me dies. 30 children stood in rows, performing songs or poetry or skits. Parents sat on rickety chairs, transfixed as their darlings (each one a future Emma Stone or Ryan Gosling) perform their two painstakingly memorised lines. Each assembly on a different topic: with a different year group, different group of children. Each assembly however feels very similar. 30 children stood in rows, benches, songs, poetry, skits, etc etc.
Standing in the street as a costumed Suffragette throwing reasoned arguments during a ‘Votes for Women’ dramatization, I remember encountering a curious mix of responses. A melting pot of confusion (understandably, it’s not often a Suffragette march passes you by in 2013), interest and awe, but also criticism; “What are you complaining about? Women have the vote! What a pointless protest.” Accurate as it may be that British women have the right to suffrage, annual events such as International Women’s Day continue to highlight that equality for women is still a very real issue that transcends political rights, cultures, religions and geographical borders, and will forever remain an invaluable part of modern education.