Jun 172014

If your history department is planning for the 2014 National Curriculum now that exams have finished, see this guidance from Jamie Byrom.

See it [ here ]


Apr 262014

At the start of the school Easter holiday, the Department for Education finally published guidance on subject content for the new GCSEs [here...]. Ofqual also announced details of the assessment objectives for different GCSE subjects [here...]. These two documents will determine the nature of new GCSE courses from September 2016. As far as history is concerned, they will lead to the most radical shake-up of the 14-16 curriculum since the introduction of the Schools Council History Project course in the 1970s. An overhaul of GCSE history is long overdue. The Schools History Project has argued that Modern World specifications offer a restricted historical experience for 14-16 year-olds. At the same time, we have been dismayed by the way in which current SHP specifications only partially reflect the principles on which the Project is based. Our students deserve a more rigorous and enjoyable experience of learning history than the current GCSE Modern World and SHP specifications allow. We believe that the guidance on subject content and assessment objectives for the new GCSE history provide a robust framework for the transformation of students’ experience beyond 14.

At the heart of the new guidance are worthwhile subject aims and learning outcomes that accurately define the discipline of history and explain why studying our subject should matters so much to14-16 year-olds. As an elucidation of SHP’s first principle – that studying history should have a profound impact on the lives of young people – the new aims and learning outcomes for GCSE history would be hard to beat. The scope of study statement requires that new specifications should build on the foundations established at key stage 3. It provides an entitlement to study history from three different eras, on three different time scales and in three different geographical contexts. This offers a strong basis for the prescribed diversity in 14-16 history that SHP believes can lead to a more rigorous and engaging history GCSE. New GCSE courses will be structured around British and European/Wider World depth studies, a period study, a thematic study and a study of a particular site in its historical context. This structure offers an excellent way forward. Potentially, a varied and coherent five-part GCSE course that enshrines different approaches to studying history has much to offer 14-16 year-olds.

Turning the guidance on subject content and assessment objectives into engaging and rigorous specifications should be both rewarding and challenging. Let’s not hide away from the fact that the introduction of new GCSEs in history will mean considerable upheaval and much hard work by both Awarding Bodies and history teachers. Hopefully, some worthwhile elements of current specifications (whether Modern World or SHP) will re-emerge in new forms. However, now is the time for some radical and creative thinking from the Awarding Bodies about new definitions of content and approaches to assessment. Only through a willingness to engage with, and take forward, best practice at key stage 3 will GCSE history be set on a new and more sustainable course in the years following 2016. From the perspective of the Schools History Project, there are five particular challenges and opportunities that Awarding Bodies will need to confront as they prepare new GCSE history specifications:

  1. Establishing clear and rigorous criteria for knowledge selection. The guidance on subject content provides a sound framework for approaching historical knowledge, but important choices will have to be made about the focus of thematic, depth and period studies. It’s crucial that new GCSE courses offer meaningful and academically-rigorous history that will appeal to 14-16 year-olds. It’s also crucial that the creative thinking on blending outline and depth knowledge that has characterised so much innovative practice in key stage 3 planning is now taken forward into new GCSE specifications.
  2. Developing new approaches to assessment. Officially, Ofqual has still to make an announcement on non-examination assessment in individual subjects, but it seems highly likely that the new GCSE history will be assessed entirely through terminal exams. This is regrettable, but it makes the case for developing new and innovative forms of assessment even stronger. Of course, there is much good practice (including levels of response mark-schemes) that that can be carried forward from existing GCSEs, but there is also dire practice that it’s time to ditch. We now have the opportunity to develop new approaches to assessment that will make history exams challenging, meaningful and accessible for all GCSE students.
  3. Making source-work meaningful. We all know that historical sources are wonderful things: archives treasure them; historians salivate over them; thanks to the internet, we can all enjoy them. Analysing, evaluating and using historical sources to pursue historical enquiries should be a fascinating and enjoyable process for GCSE students. Yet, ask students what they dislike most about GCSE history and many will say source-work! The new GCSE specifications should put historical sources in their proper place. Banal and formulaic questions based on ill-chosen source-snippets must be banished. New ways of assessing our students’ use of sources must be developed.
  4. Taking forward historical interpretations. Understanding how and why different interpretations of history have been constructed is enshrined in the new guidance on subject content and is accorded 15% in the new assessment objectives. Since it first achieved formal curricular presence in the National Curriculum of 1991‘Interpretations’ has become the most treasured element of our history curriculum. The challenge is now to take forward into GCSE some of the inspiring work on historical interpretations that has emerged at key stage 3.
  5.  Assessing students’ understanding of the historic environment.  Generating an interest in, and knowledge of, the historic environment has been a core principle of the Schools History Project since its inception. We are therefore delighted that all new GCSE specifications will require students to study a particular site in its historical context. This should be an engaging and motivating element of new courses. Our challenge now is to devise methods of assessment that promote enjoyable and meaningful studies of particular historic sites.

It’s crucial to meet these challenges and to grasp this opportunity to improve the experience of leaning history for the next generation of 14-16 students. For SHP, the priority is now to work with Awarding Organisations in developing new GCSE specifications and to provide the resources and professional development that will help to promote more enjoyable and rigorous learning from September 2016. Over the next two years, the Project will be dedicated to creating GCSE history courses that our young people deserve.

Michael Riley

Director, Schools History Project

A former colleague told me on hearing I was pregnant with my first son, that being a parent doesn’t make you a better teacher but makes you a more understanding one. Sixteen years later I continue to echo his thoughts and as my children advance towards public examinations, nevermore have I been more appreciative of the challenges our young people face. Faced with the prospect of 26 examinations this summer that same son has finally succumbed to the fact that his mother might be able to help him with revision.

In my current role as deputy head teacher of a large comprehensive in Norwich it can at times be easy to get diverted away from the very purpose of a teacher’s role in supporting student need. With an aim to keep myself grounded and remember that I am first and foremost a teacher, I ensure I teach history and mentor students in order to support them through this challenging time. Mentoring year 11, 12 and 13 students has revealed to me at common gap in their ability to work and revise independently; this is their ability to plan an effective schedule of revision and then know what revision actually means in its broadest terms. I try to address this whole school by leading student and parent/carer assemblies in methodology of revision. Much of my thinking and the ideas I present to both students and their parents is based upon SHP models. This blog therefore seems the most appropriate vehicle to share this thinking with you at a time when all students, including two of my sons, need to be thinking about the demands of revision.

Stage one – Plan it!
Medium-term planning is for me one of the most intrinsically interesting aspects of my job. SHP conferences taught me at a very early stage in my career to follow a backwards planning model. As SHP devotees reading this blog you will be clear on what that means in terms of thinking of your endpoint and then working backwards from that point as to how you hope to achieve it. This principle can be applied to any form of planning and becomes particularly pertinent when considering a revision schedule; map the exams on the timeline and work backwards from this point as to how many sessions of revision these particular areas will demand. Students repeatedly quote that history and science are the most demanding of their revision subjects and building a macro and micro knowledge of the history units examined at GCSE requires resilience but most of all allocation of time. The timetable should be flexible but not lenient and allow for some downtime in an incredibly stressful period of the young person’s life.

Stage two – Learn it!
Yet again, SHP conference and text books spring to mind with the many different learning styles demonstrated by some of the best teachers in the country. Pick up any of the SHP GCSE textbooks and you will find a wide range of learning approaches including that of mind mapping, factor diagrams, keywords, timelines, practice questions and more active approaches to learning all of which make fantastic methods the revision. Follow the links to Dale Banham and Russell Hall’s excellent work on raising attainment at GCSE and A’ level for further research and ideas on methodology and strategies to promote independence and motivation.

Banham and Hall: 1

Banham and Hall: 2

 Stage three – Test it!

In the classroom many teachers will differentiate essential knowledge from desirable knowledge when supporting their students in revision. Do your students know the difference that they know what is absolutely necessary to learn inside out in order to achieve the very best they can on that paper and what is the extra knowledge that  will cloud some students them rather than support them in their learning? As a parent I can make use of my son’s stage two revision techniques when testing him on the knowledge that he requires; a less supported student can find this difficult and will need some help in achieving this. At school we allocate peer mentors to students in order to support them through these ‘testing’ times when they don’t have the adult support at home. Again SHP textbooks and resources help with this, by demonstrating model examination answers so that students can use their own approaches and then check them against the exemplar answers; both the surgery and protest unit three books do this particularly well.

Stage four – Reflect upon it!
This stage is really tough and demands a huge level of maturity from any student, though I have found that year 12 and 13 students become increasingly adept at it during the journey through their A-levels. Self, peer and teacher marking can allow students to see where their weaknesses are thus allowing the student to return to stage one to work on their identified gaps. This is often the weakest link in effective revision as it requires honesty and a high level of resilience to return to the beginning. Sixth form students often fall fowl here as they have managed to do stages one to three effectively at GCSE but do not recognise that stage four is the deal-breaker when it comes to that desired A-level grade.

So will my son listen to this SHP disciple/ teacher/parent advice? Well, he has got the mock exam timetable on the wall, there are mind maps littered all over the dining room table, I even did some GCSE food tech testing with him yesterday but he has just announced is going out to play football and is unlikely to back until teatime with a promise that he will make up the time tomorrow! I need to remember my own words ‘…flexible but not lenient and allow for some downtime’ and that I am after all his mum.

Please share your history revision strategies and ideas below.

Jo Philpott
SHP Fellow
Deputy Headteacher City of Norwich School

I’m delighted to announce the launch of SHP’s support for primary history.

This is something that we’ve wanted to do for a while, and the introduction of the new National Curriculum has now given us the impetus.

In SHP’s view, the revised History Curriculum provides a strong framework for pupils’ learning in history.  It’s not without its weaknesses, of course.  In particular, we think that starting with the Neolithic in Year 3 and ending with the twentieth century in Year 9 will do little, by itself, to build pupils’ chronological awareness.  It’s a pity that the Secretary of State ignored SHP’s advice to include a range of periods, and ‘studies through time’, at each Key Stage. Overall, however, the new National Curriculum, with its emphasis on enquiry, knowledge-building, and historical thinking should support primary teachers in planning rigorous and enjoyable history for all pupils. And, in the months and years ahead, SHP will be here to help!

SHP’s support for primary is based firmly on the six core principles that underpin all our work: connecting history to children’s lives, pursuing historical enquiry, taking the long view, appreciating diversity, understanding the historic environment and enjoying the study of history [ here ]. The Schools History Project actively campaigns to embed these principles in children’s and young people’s historical education.  At a practical level, we provide a range of support for teachers and pupils through our publishing, website and conferences.  The primary area of the website, which opens this week, already contains some resources that we hope will be particularly useful in helping primary teachers plan for the new curriculum [ here ]. We’ll be adding more guidance, enquiries and activities over the next few months and would be interested in your feedback and suggestions.

In addition, SHP’s first Primary History Conference, in partnership with the British Museum, will take place on 29 March.  The conference offers two plenary sessions and a choice of five workshops, all aimed at helping primary teachers to plan for September 2014 [ here ]. We hope that this will be the first of many annual SHP primary conferences at the British Museum.

As the Schools History Project widens it support for school history, we’d appreciate your help in spreading the word about our new primary provision. If you have any thoughts on particular ways in which can nurture primary history do add a comment to this blog.

Michael Riley

SHP Director 

Nov 152013

One piece of news:

Hodder have now updated their website more effectively on ‘strengthened’ GCSE books and you can find a list of the changes, publication dates and more information here


Oct 092013

Two new titles in SHP’s Enquiring History series

1. Publication mid-October 2013

Nazi Germany 1933-1945

by Christopher Culpin and Steven J Mastin

See the Hodder site:


or Amazon



2. Advance notice – Publication February 2014

Tudor Rebellions 1485-1603

By Barbara Mervyn



Oct 072013

Advance notice of books to support the ‘strengthened’ GCSE specifications.

Across the summer we have been revising three books to meet the requirements of the new specifications. These books will be published later this term and further information on publication dates will be made available here as soon as possible. The three books are:

  • OCR Medicine through time by Ian Dawson and Dale Banham
  • Edexcel Medicine through time by Ian Dawson and Dale Banham
  • OCR Crime and Punishment through time by Richard McFahn and Chris Culpin

Keep an eye on the Hodder website for further details:



A new resource from Ian Dawson suggesting ideas for developing independent learning amongst A level History students; it describes one strategy that can help students develop that ability to study a new topic independently and with confidence.

See the resource [ here ]


History beyond Textbooks

How to use digital resources for cross-border history education:
new tools and approaches

London: 12-16 April 2014

Is it possible to teach cross-border history without textbooks?

EUROCLIO, in partnership with Schools History Project, History Teacher Education Network (UK), Institute of Education (University of London) and Imperial War Museums invites you to join the international training course on how to use digital resources for cross-border history education which will take place in London between 12-17 April 2014.

The programme of the seminar offers a series of workshops and trainings contributing to the development of a common European approach to history teaching methods, and teaching challenges, piloting and collaborating on the new online lesson modules in Historiana website. The course will be mainly framed with events of 1914-1918 and 1989 as exemplar themes for a common European online learning environment.

Last, but not least, on-site learning programme in London, the city which is literally swimming in cultural sites, buildings, and rich history will make your memories and experience from the event even more live and unique!

And, till 17 September 2013, History Teachers and Educators have an opportunity to apply for full scholarship to attend this course.

Then we will really be able to share British expertise and practice with European colleagues at our training course.

More information, registration and grants.

For more information see www.euroclio.eu

Meanwhile Register [ here ].

And secondly apply for one of EU-LLL grants!

Contact your national agency and apply for grants before 17 September 2013.

Check the eligibility of your country here.  Use following seminar codes to apply for an eligible grant.

Comenius (Secondary education): NL-2014-356-001

Grundtvig (Adult education): NL-2014-364-001

Aug 202013


University of London

National Education Co-ordinator (World War 1) (2 posts)

Faculty of Children and Learning

Salary will be on the Grade 8 scale, in the range £37,382 to £44,607 per annum plus £2,323 London Allowance

Job Share considered

The Institute of Education is a world-leading centre for education research and teacher development, located at the heart of one of the world’s most vibrant cities.

We are currently seeking to recruit two National Education Co-ordinators to play an instrumental role in establishing the IOE’s new, ground-breaking First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Project, which is designed to provide the opportunity for a minimum of two pupils and one teacher from every state funded secondary school in England to visit battlefields on the Western Front between 2014-19.

To undertake this role, you will have current working knowledge of the secondary education sector, with the ability to demonstrate excellent planning and co-ordination skills, along with the ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with a wide range of stakeholders.

This appointment will be subject to a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Closing Date:          Monday 16 September 2013

Interview Date:        Wednesday 25 September 2013

Reference:               8PR-CL-5332

To apply online please visit http://jobs.ioe.ac.uk or telephone 020 7612 6159

We positively encourage applicants

from all sections of under-represented communities

© 2013 Schools History Project Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha