Teaching KS3 History: Local Study

The new curriculum for 2014 makes it mandatory to include a local history study in your KS3 history curriculum. For example:

  • a depth study linked to one of the British areas of study listed above;
  • a study over time, testing how far sites in their locality reflect aspects of national history (some sites may predate 1066);
  • a study of an aspect or site in local history dating from a period before 1066.

These are not the only choice though. The first issue you need to consider is whether you want to teach local history in ‘pill’ or ‘powder’ form, i.e. just one solid block of local history or including lots of small local studies in the context or national studies. The advantage of the latter is that it gives you much more variety in how you approach the topic and you will not have to teach the contextual detail first as students will be studying local in a national context, often to answer the question ‘How typical was the experience of village/town X?’of, say, changes in the Reformation?

Even if you do plump for just one study you might like to ponder the choice of a Line of Development study covering hundreds of years or a ‘patch’ study of a more limited period?

You might also like to consider whether the study(ies) will be built around one/several site visits? Will there be links with/involvement of community? Will it be built on with a home-study?

Finally, you might like to liaise with your main contributory primary schools as they too have to undertake a local study at KS2, so it makes sense to avoid repetition, at the very least, and try to build on prior learning.

Resourcing individual local studies would never be possible on a site such as this, but we will make every effort to link you to best practice. On the OFSTED website there is a good example of how one school had placed local history at the spine of its KS3 curriculum.

OFSTED writes that:

A clear vision of history’s role in enriching students’ understanding of their local heritage and the importance of the area in the past has been established. Students’ growing understanding of the area’s role in national and international events and its changing fortunes provides a context within which they can set their awareness of the economic challenges faced by the far south west in recent decades. In this way, the school explores national and international issues from the local perspective and vice-versa in that the local perspective is used to exemplify national and international issues. As Tim Garland, head of history, emphasises, activities ‘tap into students’ own backgrounds and especially the time when Cornwall was a world leader in mining’.

Beyond this clear vision for the subject, four key features explain how the department has so successfully placed the study of the locality at the centre of its work and contributed so significantly to students’ sense of identity.

At Cape Cornwall school :

In Year 7, students explore myths and legends in conjunction with a local storyteller and the English department, and evaluate the reliability of such accounts of the past. They investigate a local Norman castle as part of their work on ‘what have the Normans done for us?’ and study the evidence the Normans have left behind. As part of their work on ‘who are the British?’ students explore Cornish settlement patterns and place names.

The Year 8 curriculum focuses on Cornwall’s part in the English Civil War and also includes a major unit on Cornish mining and migration to mining areas in the United States, South Africa and Australia. Links have been established with a school in the ‘Little Cornwall’ district in Moonta, South Australia. The district celebrates a biennial Cornish festival, the ‘Kernewek Lowender’. Students at Cape Cornwall communicate by email with their counterparts in Moonta and exchange information about Cornish culture and customs.

In Year 9, students investigate how people’s experiences of the Second World War varied, drawing on oral testimony from local residents. Year 11 students study Cornish mining as a major component of their GCSE course, focusing on the Levant Mine which is just a few miles from the school. Many students have family connections with tin mining. Another local mine, Geevor, only ceased to be worked in 1991. As one student put it, ‘I was able to connect with history more because of this personal link’.

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