Progression in history at Key Stage 1

The problem

Trying to secure progression within your Key Stage 1 history curriculum is not always as easy as it might seem. Sometimes it feels like trying to pick up mercury with a fork. The level descriptors seem too vague to be used as precise learning objectives and the QCA schemes of work don’t always apply to your chosen approaches. Yet if we fail to build historical understanding progressively we may find pupils doing the same types of work in Spring Y2 as they did in Spring Y1. Only by planning more challenging learning objectives into the schemes of work will you prevent this from happening. But how do we do it?

The solution

In this section of the site I have broken down each of the strands (key elements) into a set of hierarchical statements which are supported with examples of what that might look like in the context of a given topic.

  • Progression in chronology
  • Progression in characteristic features
  • Progression in cause and consequence
  • Progression in interpretations
  • Progression in enquiry
  • Progression in organisation and communication

Attempting anything like this is fraught with danger as learning history is seldom linear and the whole notion of breaking down levels into sub-levels is nonsense.

We have to start somewhere, though, and the system offered here has stood the test of time for over a dozen years now. Teachers love its clarity and can easily see how to make the work increasingly difficult. Using the guidance in a formative way to advance pupils’ learning in all aspects of history makes the most sense.

Top tip

Experience has shown that the simple use of a different colour pen for each topic to highlight which objectives should be taught in which topic gives a very clear visual signal as to whether the work is becoming more challenging. The image gallery shows how this looks in practice. Simply decide which of the main skills and concepts you wish to teach in each topic, then go to the progression chart for that skill and highlight. You should always be highlighting some new objectives, but it is also quite appropriate to revisit some to consolidate. Why not give it a go. You may find your coverage is excellent already. If you find some gaps by the end of the key stage you may need to tweak your teaching to add more challenge at the end of Year 2 or possibly add a new key question to tilt the emphasis more towards a particular skill.

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