July 2021
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Designing your new GCSE history course for examination in 2018

As the leading exam board have now had their new GCSE history courses accredited, our thoughts now need to turn to planning the new course. I have been somewhat dismayed by the tone of some of the boards’ statements about their new courses. It seems that the market imperative  drives all that they say. Listening to AQA’s recent webinar, their Chief Examiner’s response to how to plan a 3-year course, ran along the lines of  ” use what you already know and what’s in the cupboard”. I can see that this advice is sound, on one level, but it would have been nice to have heard a little more thought being given the importance of intelligent curriculum design and what might best advantage the students’ learning. Much of this knowledge will come with experience as schools try new approaches, but all schools must start with their own.  Rather than see the new GCSE as an unnecessary interference and additional workload, it might be the right time to plan something creative. Will you teach the four units as separate silos? Will you give each the same amount of teaching time? Which topics are best suited to the beginning and end of course? How much time should you be protecting for revision given the linear courses?  How do you build on KS3 experience without too much demotivating duplication. AQA offers one model which uses a chunk of early Y10 to revise Y9 work. I can’t see this working, but you might. Another model suggests ‘covering content’ first and then use Y11 for analysis.

Over the next week I will be uploading a series of different models for the new GCSE courses, along with accompanying rationales. Also in the pipeline is a file of 20 questions you need to ask before deciding what to teach with the new GCSE and when.

New GCSE OCR Explaining the Modern World. An acquired taste? or Hobson’s choice


Now that the new GCSE history (9-1) specifications have nearly all been accredited, it is time to start making some hard choices. For teachers of the popular legacy OCR Modern World Course, the choices will be that bit tougher. It’s the thematic component that worries me most. There are three options. You can either do the new Migration in Britain c.1000-c.2010 or Power: Monarchy and Democracy c.1000 to 2014 or War and British Society c.790 to c.2010. So far, superficially, this does not seem to pose particular problems. Although the second one on power looks a little dull and inevitably means revisiting substantial parts of the KS3 curriculum. That leaves migration and warfare. Both have potential. That is until you read the rubric about prohibited combinations. If I wanted to teach migration and I very well might, I have, yes have to teach The Impact on Empire on Britain 1688-c.1730. This would not have been my first choice; but it turns out to be my only one! I also have to teach, yes, this is the only route, urban environments: patterns of migration which, for 2018 examination, means a study of Butetown in Cardiff.

What if I go for warfare instead, making more use of some of the old legacy materials? Well, here again you have only one route. You have to study the Personal Rule to Restoration and then, rather bizarrely, castles: form and function c.1000-1750. The historic environment component obliges me to teach Framlingham castle for the first year.

When so much choice is usually available to history teachers it is somewhat ironic that in the thematic study, British depth study, and historic environment study, worth 50% combined with at there is very little choice once a route has been decided.

Elsewhere on the paper there is only one place where schools can make a personal choice and that is with the depth study. Here there are 7 options, 2 of them 20C America and nothing on the Russian Revolution. Time will tell whether schools will cover the whole of the International Relations topic which spans a whacking 83 years from 1918 to 2001 but falls short of the Iraq war.

It’ll be interesting to see the effect of the route-based approach on centre numbers. Watch this space.

Stop using 'can-do' statements to assess KS3 history

It has always concerned me that context-free can-do statements have NO PLACE in HISTORY TEACHING.

How can we possibly consider explanations for why the Great Fire started as being on a par with explaining the fall of communism in Eastern Europe 25 years ago? Context is all. But perhaps we are guilty of special pleading for our subject. Perhaps there is a place for ‘can-do’ statements in KS3 assessment and we have simply got it wrong.

Well, I thought that there might well be a case of them in mathematics until I read a recent report which exposed their flaws very elegantly. The report focused on the ‘can do’ statement that pupils ‘can compare two fractions to identify which is the larger’ Sounds pretty precise.  But does it work? Unsurprisingly, it all depends on the fraction, of course. Here is the evidence. When asked which is the larger 3/7 or 5/7 90% of secondary-aged pupils got the answer right. But when the fractions were changed to 3/4 and 4/5 only 75% got it right. And then, astonishingly, when the fractions to compare were 5/7 and 5/9 only 15% gave the correct answer. So, as with history context is all. Kick the ‘can-do’ statements out and don’t let them back in. They never had a place in history departments and please don’t reinvent them now, just because we have a vacuum. If it is in your grasp to influence SLT’s thinking too, please take the opportunity to show them the above evidence.

Short KS3 history diagnostic assessments

I will be shortly publishing a detailed paper on high-quality KS  assessment in history drawing on recent publications and some trialling I am currently doing. You won’t be surprised to learn that I am advocating a mixed economy of short reasoned answers in respoinse to historical stimulus at the one end through to extended pupil enquries and essays at the other. here I want to focus on short diagnostic tasks that last 15 minutes can be marked in class with pupils using a detailed markscheme with scope for pupils to coach each other to improve their first answer on the spot. You will have found a number of these tasks already on the site, ones I trialled very successfully in 30 Hampshire schools.

I now want to extend the range of tasks on offer and to include some that could be used in KS4 too. The new additions , to be uploaded in September cover the following topics:

a. Civil Rights in the USA- focus on lunching and desegregation

b. Empire- early 17C settlement in America

c. Industrial revolution- changes in transport – a tasks that tests understanding of both change and continuity as well as evidential understanding.

Each has a simple task and a detailed levels of response markscheme ranging from low through to highest standard expected. The joy is that there is also one column on the markscheme for what the pupils might say which even the lowest attaining pupils can use themselves when self or peer marking.

If you are interested in viewing or trialling these I am happy to make them available in draft form. otherwise, look out for them in Recently Added section in the coming weeks.


History GCSE results 2015

This year’s results show a rise in A*-C from 68.1 % last year to 69.1% this, but the proportion gaining A* fell.  from 10% to 9.6%. The gap between the boys’ performance at A* (7%) and girl s’ 12% had widened. Oddly the number of entries fell by 9,000.

Somehow the government are claiming that poorer results is a sign of rising standards.Discuss!

AS history results show slight decline

AS history results also fall from 43.3 (A-B last year) to 42.4 this. The gap between boys and girls widens 2 percentage points for this grade range with boys now achieving41.2 % A-B whilst girls now achieve 45.1%. The entry has remained fairly stable at about 5.8%. I guess this will change significantly in the future.

2015 A and AS level history results published today

Although over 3,700 more students took A level history results this year are slightly down on last year’s. A*  are down from 6.3 to 6.1 and A*-B are down from 56.3 to 55.6. The gap between the achievement of boys and girls the the higher grades continues to widen from 6.2 to 6.5 in the A*-B section.

Will history GCSE results drop this summer?

OFQUAL has warned that tough new GCSEs in history and English literature will hit pupils’ grades this summer.

In a letter to the exam boards, Ofqual said work to “strengthen” the qualifications could lead to “more variation in individual schools’ results”.

The number of teenagers gaining top grades in the subjects could drop when results are published next month as schools try to adapt to the demands of the reformed syllabuses. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

New GCSE Crime and Punishment Edexcel : Do we really have to teach Jack the Ripper?

Crime and Punishment Edexcel : Do we really have to teach Jack the Ripper?


Many centres are keen to teach Crime and Punishment for the new GCSE. Some are less keen on Edexcel’s option. As one contributor to a recent History Forum wrote recently,

The thing that puts me off teaching Edexcel Crime is the way it’s tied to the Jack The Ripper study. I am really uncomfortable about teaching that

Even the Museum of London has now changed the focus of a new museum on the role of women in the 19th century and has placed its new emphasis on Jack the Ripper. Its logo features the serial killer, who murdered at least five women in the Whitechapel area of London in 1888.


The new Jack the Ripper museum is located in Cable Street in the East End.

“As the project developed we decided a more interesting angle was from the perspective of the victims of Jack the Ripper,” said the curator. “It is absolutely not celebrating the crime of Jack the Ripper but looking at why and how the women got in that situation in the first place.”


In the end, the death and mutilation of women seems to have a much greater commercial attraction than their many great achievements. True to of exam boards it seems. And that is the most depressing fact of all.

KS3 history- Farage Tied up with Bayeux Tapestry

Just what was Nigel Farage thinking when he wore his Bayeux tapestry tie? What point do your pupils think he was trying to get over? See how their thinking matures in the new KS3 enquiry lesson on the puzzle of Nigel Farage’s tie. This new lesson makes a significant contribution to the idea of Britishness but in a fun and accessible way. Any subscribers who would like to see a preview before it goes live, just contact me and I’ll email you the resources prior to full publication.