A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.

Marcus Garvey

History Lead – Mr J Carey

At St Mary’s, we believe a high-quality History education will help pupils gain a coherent knowledge and understanding of Britain’s past and that of the wider world. It should inspire pupils’ curiosity to know more about the past. Teaching should equip pupils to ask perceptive questions, think critically, weigh evidence, sift arguments, and develop perspective and judgement. History helps pupils to understand the complexity of people’s lives, the process of change, the diversity of societies and relationships between different groups, as well as their own identity and the challenges of their time.

Aims of the History Curriculum

The national curriculum for history aims to ensure that all pupils:

  • know and understand the history of Britain as a coherent, chronological narrative, from the earliest times to the present day: how people’s lives have shaped this nation and how Britain has influenced and been influenced by the wider world
  • know and understand significant aspects of the history of the wider world: the nature of ancient civilisations; the expansion and dissolution of empires; characteristic features of past non-European societies; achievements and follies of mankind
  • gain and deploy a historically grounded understanding of abstract terms such as ‘empire’, ‘civilisation’, ‘parliament’ and ‘peasantry’
  • understand historical concepts such as continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity, difference and significance, and use them to make connections, draw contrasts, analyse trends, frame historically-valid questions and create their own structured accounts, including written narratives and analyses
  • understand the methods of historical enquiry, including how evidence is used rigorously to make historical claims, and discern how and why contrasting arguments and interpretations of the past have been constructed
  • gain historical perspective by placing their growing knowledge into different contexts, understanding the connections between local, regional, national and international history; between cultural, economic, military, political, religious and social history; and between short- and long-term timescales.

Our history curriculum draws upon several powerful sources of knowledge – this is our view on history:

Substantive knowledge– this is the subject knowledge and explicit vocabulary used about the past. Common misconceptions are explicitly revealed as non-examples and positioned against known and accurate content. Misconceptions are challenged carefully and in the context of the substantive and disciplinary knowledge.

Disciplinary knowledge– this is the use of that knowledge and how children construct understanding through historical claims, arguments and accounts. We call it ‘Working Historically.’ The features of thinking historically may involve significance,  evidence, continuity and change, cause and consequence, historical perspective, and contextual interpretation.

Historical analysis is developed through selecting, organising and integrating knowledge through reasoning and inference making in response to our structured questions and challenges. We call this ‘Thinking historically’

Substantive concepts, such as tax, invasion and civilisation are taught through explicit vocabulary instruction as well as through the direct content and context of the study.

Our history curriculum draws upon prior learning, wherever the content is taught. For example, in the EYFS, pupils may learn about the past and present through daily activities, exploring through change, and understanding more about the lives of others through books and visitors as well as their own experiences. These experiences are drawn upon and used to position new learning in KS1.

The structure is built around the principles of advancing cumulative knowledge, chronology, change through cause and effect, as well as making connections within and throughout periods of time studied.

The history curriculum is planned so that the retention of knowledge is much more than just ‘in the moment knowledge’. The cumulative nature of the curriculum is made memorable by the implementation of Bjork’s desirable difficulties, including retrieval and spaced retrieval practice, word building and deliberate practice tasks. This powerful interrelationship between structure and research-led practice is designed to increase substantive knowledge and accelerate learning within and between study modules. That means the foundational knowledge of the curriculum is positioned to ease the load on the working memory: new content is connected to prior learning. The effect of this cumulative model supports opportunities for children to associate and connect with significant periods of time, people, places and events.

The history curriculum strategically incorporates a range of modules that revisit, elaborate and sophisticate key concepts, events, people and places.

A guiding principle of the history curriculum, is that pupils become ‘more expert’ with each study and grow an ever broadening and coherent mental timeline. This guards against superficial, disconnected and fragmented understanding of the past. Specific and associated historical vocabulary is planned sequentially and cumulatively from Y1 to Y6. High frequency, multiple meaning words (Tier 2) are taught alongside and help make sense of subject specific words (Tier 3). Each learning module in history has a vocabulary module with teacher guidance, tasks and resources.