The debate about the history curriculum often raises a head of steam and then goes quiet. When the 2014 history National Curriculum was established by Gove we all had to revise our long-term plans regardless of how faithfully we ever intended to follow the letter of Gove’s law. Now, with the sharper OFSTED focus on curriculum, the debate has gathered pace again. So I thought I would offer you some tapes across the minefield. This is not because we need to pandar to OFSTED (indeed I have deliberately NOT used their 3 Is of Intent , Implementation etc). but because they are the questions you should be asking yourself and the issues you need to consider anyway.
- You will have to show that you are in fact teaching history (and not just doing literacy disguised as history, or very tenuous cross-curricular links). This means teaching not only the content of history but also the crucial skills and concepts including developing a big picture of the past. It is not enough to say you are studying the NC. When you now have scope to modify it, have you taken advantage of this freedom? Have you made the history curriculum as relevant as you can to the pupils in your school. Ofsted will not make a judgement about the curriculum structure you teach e. as a discrete subject or not but you need to be aware of the critical comments about KS2 cross-curricular topic work they have committed to in print over the last few years . See my earlier blog about using chocolate as a topic theme for studying the Maya. https://www.keystagehistory.co.uk/opinion/keystage-history-blog/is-chocolate-bad-for-your-history-lessons-at-ks2-warnings-about-ofsted-and-some-cross-curricular-approaches/
- You will need to consider in detail the purpose and value of history in your curriculum. Why is it given a prominent place in the curriculum? How does it lead to intended outcomes for your pupils? How are you ensuring that the main objectives of the history curriculum as intended are being implemented?
- You will also have to justify your decisions about what you teach and how and when you teach it and for how long. This means having a better justification than that you’ve always taught those topics in these year groups or you have invested heavily in age-specific resources. Why have you chosen to teach the topics in that sequence? Do they relate to each other in any way or are they just isolated and free-standing. For example, how have you linked the topic on the Saxons/Vikings with the non-European study of a society from the same period e.g. Benin/Maya. How have you linked the Greeks with the Romans?
- Now you must have a rationale, a meaning and a focus, not only for the long-term plan ( what you teach and in what sequence), but also the choices you have made. Why have you opted to study Benin rather than the Maya? What motivated your choice of long-term post1066 study? Did you select crime and punishment because it was full of gory stories or because it exemplified change over time very well linking work on Saxon justice with that on Victorian prisons? You will also need to explain the approach you have taken within each topic. Why have you privileged certain types of knowledge over others? You will note that I have done this on all the MTPs on the site as exemplars for you. These explain which historical skills (e.g. how to evaluate sources) and conceptual understandings (e.g.how things change) are being developed in greater depth than others.
- More demandingly, you will have to articulate what it means to get better at history. Here the advice on the website about progression by each strand is invaluable. https://www.keystagehistory.co.uk/keystage-2/progression-by-strand-in-history-at-ks-2/Of course, pupils make progress by knowing more and linking existing topic knowledge to what they have already learned. But this misses the point. Pupils get better at history by showing deeper capacity to master the main elements of the discipline of history ( what I call the 7 Cs understanding chronology, cause , consequence, change, continuity, characteristic features, cultural diversity, contested accounts) all through an awareness that we learn about the past from source material of different kinds.
You can access the other 5, including the long list of questions that OFSTED inspectors will be asking , here.