What makes us passionate about our subject?
History is an intrinsically fascinating subject. Its scope is vast and encompasses every kind of human endeavour and human experience. What is perhaps most immediately enthralling is the 'otherness' of the past, and what draws you in is that the knowledge, beliefs and practices appear to be so alien at first. It is scarcely surprising then that it is often the apparent ignorance of people in the past and its most horrific episodes and deplorable villains that initially take your attention. However, what holds your interest is the realisation that despite 'progress' being evident the story of humanity is not one of a relentless march towards enlightenment and civilisation. Indeed, what comes through most strongly by studying history is that what makes us quintessentially human is evident in all contexts and in every period. The human experience is essentially immutable, and this is a powerful conclusion that once realised makes the exploration of history more than simply an academic and esoteric discipline explaining the actions of 'others'. Yet at the same time this only serves to heighten the fascination with the narrative itself, which requires far more than simply learning by rote a chronicle of the past. Understanding history also requires the historian to accept that every meaningful attempt to interpret the past is contested and reliant on the evidence extant from a particular period and more importantly on the context in which a historian writes. This is true of all history and your own view of it. This is, of course, why historians love to argue so much!
What do our students gain by studying our subject?
A student generally begins to approach history as a body of knowledge that must be learnt and recounted.
The assumption is that as History teachers we 'know' what they should learn, and so a history lesson will involve the transmission of objective fact. A second assumption is that students anticipate that they will learn how 'we' made progress, usually stemming from the notion that people 'used to be stupid'; the so called 'divvy past'.
Challenging these preconceptions is the basis of good history teaching. In the course of studying History they will quickly come to understand that virtually every meaningful statement about the past is contested. Indeed, the 'facts' themselves are often disputed and certainly any conclusions that are built on them will be open to debate.
History students are therefore encouraged to think critically. This is not to say that they are dismissive or cynical, but that they understand that the merit of an argument depends not only on the facts but the interpretation of these. The same, however, is true of their views and opinions. Hence, learning History creates a mind that should be able to read nuance and test the validity of a point of view. Where they disagree, the strength of any counter argument can also be expected to be scrutinised. Hence by carefully unpicking preconceptions and scaffolding the skills required to do this, students of history should develop the ability to think deeply about issues, to probe and challenge the thinking and assumptions of others and construct their own persuasive views based on reason. History students are therefore articulate, compelling and literate; qualities that transfer well to other contexts. Such a critical mind is also of increasing value in a world that is now saturated by information and misinformation.
That is not to say, however, that the knowledge itself doesn't have value. A good story remains a good story, and articulating it is a skill in itself, even if it is primarily a hook to lead students to enthusiastically develop the skills outlined above. It is true too that understanding how History has shaped the local landscape can help with comprehension of their immediate place in the world. Yet the knowledge gleaned also teaches an appreciation of the development of values and the reasoning underpinning these. One might point to modern notions of equality, parliamentary democracy or the rule of law. Any attempt to appreciate these outside of their historical context lessens their meaning and a student's ability to speak with authority about them. In addition, history students are sensitive to cultural and religious difference. Challenging the assumed 'stupidity' of people in the past for holding different beliefs is part of this. More powerfully we do of course explore the dangers of mindless bigotry and racism and the very real power of abstract ideology in directing otherwise 'civilised' people to do terrible things. A student of history therefore better understands the world, their place in it and the place of others who are perhaps not as different as some would have you believe.
Lower School – Years 7 and 8
All students study History in the lower school. They are taught for two hours a week in Year 7 and have one hour of History in Year 8. The curriculum is broadly chronological and considers British and elements of world history from 1066 to the 20th century.
All those who opt to take GCSE History follow the AQA specification. The specific optional units covered are: 'Britain: Health and the People', 'Norman England: 1066-1100', 'Germany 1890-1945' and 'Conflict and tension between East and West 1945-72.'
To visit the examination board website click Here
History A Level
At A Level we follow the AQA specification. The specific units studied are 'The Tudors: England 1485-1603' (Unit 1C) and 'Revolution and Dictatorship: Russia 1917-1953' (Unit 2N). There will also be a single 4,500 word piece of coursework, completed in Year 13.
To visit the examination board website click AQA | History | AS and A-level | History