Why study History?
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” - Marcus Garvey
“History is who we are and why we are the way we are.” - David McCullough
“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
“Nowhere is it ordained that history moves in a straight line.” - Barack Obama
The study of History encourages pupils to think. From there, pupils can begin to think critically and gain an understanding of cultures past and present, as well national and international traditions. History widens children’s experiences and enhances their perception and judgement of the world. The study of the past provides pupils with a platform to gain not only substantial knowledge about significant lives and events in history, it also provides an opportunity to contemplate complex and moral questions and to explore what it means to be human. Perhaps most importantly, History as a discipline promotes the value of scholarship and the power of knowledge.
At Calcot Schools the History curriculum is designed to be ambitious, enjoyable and knowledge rich; sparking pupils’ enthusiasm and curiosity about the past. Thus, the curriculum provides not only in-depth, subject-specific knowledge and study, but kindles an intellectual interest about the past and encourages students to grapple with complex questions and dilemmas. The teaching of History at Calcot strives to promote critical thinking, weigh evidence, identify key arguments and develop perspective and conclusions surrounding historical figures and events. History enables pupils to understand the process of change, the diversity of societies, the complexity of people’s lives, the interweaving nature of chronology and the inextricable links between cultures and civilisations, as well as their own identity and the challenges of their time. Our curriculum seeks to reflect the diverse nature of our student cohort and interests, with a focus on global History. Furthermore, the opportunity for the children to explore diverse histories exposes them to the history of cultures and civilisations that they would otherwise not encounter. As a result, by studying a wide range of cultures and chronologies, pupils are able to contemplate and question the past and our knowledge of the past in innovative ways.
The History Curriculum strives to inspire pupils throughout KS1 and KS2 to find out about the past and understand key concepts, such as types of sources, evidence, artefacts and the limitations of sources, as well as gaining a clear and in-depth understanding of historical chronology, significant lives and events and ancient civilisations and cultures. In summary, history is a subject that revolves around excellent and in-depth knowledge. For the pupils to access this knowledge, Calcot School staff ensure that the children are provided with lessons and teachers that deliver strong content knowledge, as this will have the greatest impact on the pupils’ learning. Therefore, Calcot Schools strive for our pupils to gain a detailed and clear understanding and knowledge of content, before critical thinking and analyses are addressed. For example, for pupils to be able to compare and contrast the city-states in ancient Greece during the Classical Period, a secure understanding of the features of each state, the political organisation of Greece into poleis and what it meant to be ‘Hellene’, would first be paramount. Whilst History as a discipline should be acknowledged and taught in its own right, it naturally lends itself to cross-curricular links, which both inspire and challenge the children. It supports their development of knowledge and understanding in Literacy, Geography and RE and aids their progression in particular styles of writing, such as factual and report writing.
Pupils are taught, with the guidance of the National Curriculum and knowledgeable teachers, to develop an awareness of the past, using common words and phrases relating to the passing of time. Key concepts such as the ‘past’, ‘present’, ‘chronology’, ‘monarch’, ‘countries’ and ‘sources’ will be identified and discussed concurrently with significant people and events within a chronological framework. Pupils are encouraged to ask and answer questions, and utilise the resources and stories shown to them to demonstrate that they know and understand the most significant events. They will begin to look at how we find out about the past and identify different ways in which it is represented.
Pupils will be taught:
Changes within living memory. Where appropriate, these should be used to reveal aspects of change in national life events beyond living memory that are significant nationally or globally. For example, in Year 1, the children examine the key events surrounding the Great Fire of London, how we can find out about this event, and how it changed life in London. From that, children learn how life was the same and different in this time and can begin to make comparisons between the past and the present. To ensure progression across KS1, the children then embark on an in-depth study of the Stuarts in Year 2, including the political, religious and social organisation of Britain during this period. This allows progression in not only their content knowledge, but also their understanding of chronology and of different sources that are used to find out information regarding past events.
The lives of significant individuals in the past who have contributed to national and international achievements. Some should be used to compare aspects of life in different periods.
Significant historical events, people and places in their own locality. At the end of KS1 (Year 2), children will conduct an in-depth study of Highclere Castle, as this will provide a strong progression of knowledge from their topic of Castles in Year 1.
In line with the National Curriculum, pupils are taught to “identify significant events, make connections, draw contrasts, and analyse trends within periods and over long arcs of time. They should use historical terms and concepts in increasingly sophisticated ways. They should pursue historically valid enquiries including some they have framed themselves, and create relevant, structured and evidentially supported accounts in response. They should understand how different types of historical sources are used rigorously to make historical claims and discern how and why contrasting arguments and interpretations of the past have been constructed.” (National Curriculum 2013 DfE).
Years 3 and 4
LKS2 centres around the study of prehistoric Britain and ancient civilisations. Throughout Year 3, the pupils will embark on detailed units of Stone, Bronze and Iron Age Britain, interspersed with contemporary ancient civilisations in other countries, including Egypt, China and Nigeria. This provides students not only with a secure understanding of prehistoric Britain, but also allows them to draw comparisons between Britain and other cultures, and provides crucial contextual knowledge and understanding of world history. Crucially, it also demonstrates to pupils that key historical moments, such as the discovery of bronze, the birth of writing and the introduction of farming, occurred at different times throughout the world. The pupils are increasingly encouraged to draw comparisons between different civilisations using the terminology ‘meanwhile, elsewhere’, which in turn, develops their ability to understand historical concepts such as continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity, difference and significance, and use them to make connections, draw conclusions, analyse trends, frame historically-valid questions and create their own structured accounts.
Years 5 and 6
In Year 5, pupils will investigate how artefacts, written sources, art objects and monuments (such as cathedrals, churches and houses) are all key sources of information and evidence. The pupils need to be exposed to these different types of sources and how these can be used to pose historically valid questions. Using the case studies of Anglo-Saxon and Viking Britain, pupils will use a variety of the sources provided to investigate what everyday life may have been like. The accuracy of these sources should be discussed. Comparisons should be made between Britain during this period and contemporary civilisations, using a variety of both primary and secondary sources. Pupils should investigate different accounts of settlement structure, farming, religion and battles, from different perspectives, explaining some of the reasons why the accounts may differ. Pupils will engage in the scholarly debates regarding why the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings chose to settle in Britain.
Pupils in Year 6, with support from their teacher, will examine a variety of sources and use these to make inferences about the past, in particular, about the economy, culture, religious beliefs and societal structure of the culture in question. Pupils will be encouraged to select the information provided to them to devise historically valid statements. The pupils will examine the timeline of Britain from the early 20th century to the present day and consider where there was rapid change and where there was very little change and discuss why this may be the case. Using the ‘meanwhile, elsewhere’ phrase, pupils will be encouraged to compare their study of civilisations from other countries, including Mexico and Iraq, with Britain in this period. By the end of Year 6, pupils are expected to understand the significance of studying History as a discipline in its own right, its relevance for understanding how the past has shaped (and continues to shape) the world today and its importance in key areas such as developing respect, tolerance and understanding towards other cultures and traditions.
Through providing our students with a high-quality, varied and informative History curriculum that provides a wide range of opportunities to develop their knowledge of the past, understanding and analytical skills, we hope to foster a love of learning, academia and excellence and to promote the value of scholarship. We strive to develop their ability to think critically and engage in complex debates. Our varied History curriculum combines the examination of large regions over extended periods of time, with more focused work on topics which pivot around certain countries (such as Egypt, Greece and Britain), shorter periods and particular themes. We hope to impart a unique and varied education of the past, by developing an awareness of the differing political, cultural, social and economic structures within past societies and how they interrelate and contrast. In the latter years of the pupils’ primary education, the curriculum, alongside providing detailed chronological and contextual units, combines historically valid debates over questions of interpretation, with attention to source material and artefacts.
Throughout recent years, the staff at Calcot Schools have worked hard to not only provide an engaging and varied History curriculum, but also to promote the value of historical knowledge and raise the profile of History in school. This has been achieved in multiple ways, including providing children with a variety of artefacts, both from the British Museum and from the Reading Museum, dedicating display boards to the outstanding history work created by the children, conducting archaeological digs and running archaeology clubs. Perhaps most importantly, we have introduced the ‘Athena’s Owl Badge Award’, which is awarded to one child in every year group at the end of each long term. The badge, whilst a historical symbol related to knowledge and wisdom, also allows pupils and staff to celebrate the children’s achievements and accomplishments in history.
What do the children think of History at Calcot Schools?
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