The study of history can bring pupils into a rich dialogue with the past and with the traditions of historical enquiry. Through history, pupils come to understand their place in the world, and in the long story of human development. The study of history challenges pupils to make sense of the striking similarities and vast differences in human experiences across time and place. Pupils learn how historians and others construct accounts about the past.
At St Mary Magdalen’s Catholic Primary School, we are committed to providing a purposeful, engaging and empowering curriculum that fully prepares all learners for the next steps in their school journey, as well as the challenges of the wider world.
Our intention is that every child will be an interested and inquisitive learner of History, who is aware of changes within their local history. We follow the National Curriculum programmes of study for each year group, aiming to create the very best historians, well equipped to continue their studies in history as they move throughout their education. We challenge pupils to think, act and speak like those working in the field would, by developing a consistent approach across all year groups. Substantive knowledge and disciplinary knowledge are explicitly taught. By substantive knowledge we mean the people, events and developments from the past that children will learn about. By disciplinary knowledge, we mean all the various processes that children need to develop if they are to get better at a subject. This can both refer to a process of doing something (e.g. interpreting a source) but also a thought process in order to understand big concepts such as change, continuity and consequence.
High quality history teaching in primary school is our ultimate goal. This forms part of a larger progressive curriculum into KS3 and KS4. Our units recognise that it is fundamental children develop chronological knowledge, both in terms of sequencing periods of history and of having a clear sense of the characteristics of a particular period. Linking learning within and across key stages is essential to developing the bigger picture of history. In order to communicate their understanding, key historical terms are taught well and in context. The explicit teaching of the precise and subtly changing meanings of vocabulary linked to each topic has been developed over time with careful planning and revisiting allowing for long-term retention.
Historical concepts need to be rooted in the study of actual historical people, events, and development, which allows for the flow of the immediate narrative of learning and brings it to life and serves to build up an unseen and almost instinctive layer that forms our longer-term knowledge. It is this that underpins all future learning, giving us a chronological framework, historical terms and key concepts that enhance our learning across the curriculum.
The planning of each unit has been rooted in the four key concepts of: Chronology, Communicating History, Investigating the past and Thinking like a Historian. Due to our mixed year groups, we operate on a two-year rolling programme. Each cycle is sequenced so that it maintains a sense of chronology and builds upon prior learning.
The journey begins…
In EYFS, history is included within “Understanding of the World”, where pupils learn about history through the Early Learning Goal ‘Past and Present’. Pupils are encouraged to talk about members of their immediate family and community, name and describe people who are familiar to them, comment on images of familiar situations in the past and compare and contrast characters from stories including figures from the past.
This helps pupils to develop awareness of the past, which is then built upon in Key Stage 1 when pupils’ understanding of the past starts to develop into an awareness of a chronological framework in which people and events can be placed. In Cycle A, they investigate the lives of significant Women in History. Pupils also build upon their studies of Women in History by Comparing Queens which allows them to develop the skill of identifying similarities and differences between different periods to an even greater degree. In Cycle B, they look at changes within and beyond living memory such as Seaside Holidays. Pupils’ chronological framework is further enhanced in Year 2 when they study key events such as the Great Fire of London, building upon their understanding of how we find out about the past by asking and answering questions.
Lower Key Stage 2, where possible, is sequenced chronologically, to help pupils build a rich understanding of change and continuity in British, local and world history. In Cycle A, pupils learn about ancient civilisations and aspects of the wider world starting with Ancient Egypt. Pupils build upon this knowledge by studying Ancient Greece. In Cycle B, pupils start with a study of the Stone Age. They then study how Britain has developed through the Bronze Age and Iron Age, leading on to the impact that the Roman Empire had on the island.
Upper Key Stage 2, where possible, is sequenced chronologically, to help pupils build a rich understanding of change and continuity in British, local and world history. In Cycle A, pupils study changes under the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. This allows pupils to understand the history of these islands as a coherent, chronological narrative. Following the Anglo-Saxons, pupils go on to study Early Islamic Civilisation to help them contrast different civilisations from the same period. In Cycle B, pupils complete a thematic study of Crime and Punishment through Time, which allows them to establish clear narratives across the periods studied, and note connections, contrasts and trends over time. To incorporate our local History, pupils then study a unit based around coal mining in the North East: Who was Tommy Armstrong?
Progression through the Threshold Concepts
Within history, there are 4 key elements, which combined, ensure that our pupils can access a deep understanding of the subject. Pupils make progress in history by developing their knowledge about the past (this knowledge is often described as ‘substantive knowledge’) and their knowledge about how historians investigate the past, and how they construct historical claims, arguments and accounts (often described as ‘disciplinary knowledge’). The threshold concepts relate to different aspects of disciplinary knowledge, and substantive knowledge is vital to all of them.
Chronology Developing pupils’ chronological understanding underpins the sequencing of the history curriculum, as indicated above. Pupils develop their understanding of the past as a concept in EYFS, by placing people and events in a historical framework in Key Stage 1. This historical framework becomes more comprehensive at Key Stage 2 where pupils develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of the broad characteristics and features of British, local and world history from the Stone Age to beyond 1066.
Thinking like a Historian Progressing from understanding themselves and their families at EYFS, at Key Stage 1 pupils start to ask questions about historical events and people. Through this pupils learn about and understand key features of events in the past. Consequently they are also then able to compare aspects of life in different historical periods through significant individuals in the past. This evolves at Key Stage 2 into pupils developing their understanding of the disciplinary concepts of cause, consequence, change and continuity, similarity and difference, and historical significance. Pupils learn how to explain how or why events happen, their consequences, the extent, nature and pace of historical change, similarities and differences between people, groups, experiences or places, and why historical events and individuals are significant.
Investigating the Past This Threshold Concept is concerned with how historians investigate the past. Through EYFS and Key Stage 1 pupils will understand some of the ways in which we find out about the past and identify different ways it is represented. As pupils progress to Key Stage 2 they will develop an understanding of how interpretations of the past are constructed, making inferences about the past through analysis of contemporary historical sources and conducting historical enquiry about the reliability of sources. Pupils will identify the difference between a source and an interpretation, and recognise how historians use sources as evidence to construct, challenge or test claims about the past. While making inferences about the past from sources, pupils will use their contextual knowledge to support inferences and analyse and evaluate the reliability/usefulness of sources based on their provenance and the pupils’ knowledge of the context. Pupils will also learn the idea of misconceptions about sources and evidence.
Communicating History This Threshold Concept is concerned with how to write about the past. This includes using historical terms and vocabulary; in EYFS pupils will use common words and phrases to describe the past and the passing of time. In Key Stage 1 pupils will begin to use a wide range of vocabulary of everyday historical terms and be able to select sources to recall events of the past. Through Key Stage 2 pupils will select historical terms appropriately, including tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary, as well as use abstract terms. Pupils will ask and answer questions and construct arguments and reach conclusions.
Pupil voice and work in books shows a high standard of history being taught. Pupils are able to talk with historical language and vocabulary about a particular period. They can make links and connections to what they have been taught previously. Historical learning and enjoyment is visible.