It was great to see David Weatherly again. David is a School Improvement Advisor with many years experience as an accomplished teacher and has an international reputation for being an inspiring trainer. Whether working with teachers in schools or at CPD events, he always provides practical and achievable approaches to increasing the engagement and outcomes of pupils. He writes learning enquiries for pupils at all key stages of learning and is author of the new Primary Connected History scheme that has been published by Harper Collins.
The focus for this event was to improve pupil outcomes in history through building a rigorous curriculum with both continuity and progression. The programme was to be practical and interactive. During the day, we were told that we would be reviewing, and then able to take away, a number of fully documented and resourced enquiries, written to meet the requirements of the National Curriculum. Not only could these be trialled with pupils, but also used as models of good practice in the leadership of history in school. From my perspective, I hoped that the day would reinforce some of the key messages that I relay to local History/Humanities Subject Leaders, as well as provide me with some useful and innovative web-links and resources to share with them.
David began by outlining the aims of the day and stating that all participants should leave:
- knowing what it means for pupils to make progress in history from EYFS to Year 6;
- understanding how to design enquiries, which focus on achieving steadily more challenging subject outcomes;
- having trialled and evaluated a number of historical enquiries from EYFS to Year 6, which exemplify progression;
- confident to lead colleagues in improving provision and outcomes in history in their school.
After registering and gathering some refreshments to keep us going, David launched into an overview of the principles of curriculum design. He delivered a number of key messages here, which History/Humanities Subject Leaders were encouraged to take back to school and share with members of their Senior Leadership Teams and other colleagues. These included the following:
- Whilst schools must offer a broad and balanced curriculum, children need to know that they are doing ‘subjects’, e.g. history; geography.
- History provides a means of exploring the past, looking at the present and considering the future.
- History is contested knowledge, encompassing an element of conjecture and supposition; it is not all black and white, but there may be a range of possibilities, e.g. ‘well, it depends on …’.
- It promotes pupils to question the truth, rather than simply accepting it and acts as a vehicle to critique. This has links with safeguarding and the PREVENT strategy and youngsters less likely to be radicalised.
- Asking ‘big’ questions and working historically should be at the core of all schools.
- History is underpinned by core concepts, such as cause and consequence; continuity and change; significance; perspective; validity.
- Every subject has a rationale/paradigm.
- History is a bastion of real learning; we must fight for its position within the curriculum.
- History must be progressive, e.g. children must be seen to be getting better. Presently, there is very little progression evident in schools.
- We need to aim for an outcomes driven, enquiry led curriculum, not a content driven curriculum. Many pupils do not progress beyond reasoning/speculation and there is much flat-lining apparent at Key Stage 2.
- There is a tendency to view increased content as progression. However, we should really be aiming for less content and doing more from the ‘core spine’. We should be doing much less content better and developing children as young historians. Take them from the familiar to the unfamiliar; the known to the unknown.
- It is important to distinguish between skills and tools.
- The biggest killer for progression is ‘topics’. You cannot expect to do topics in history in their entirety. Instead, focus on relevant and engaging questions about topics.
- Be sure to introduce subject specific vocabulary.
Next, David discussed how to put these principles into practice from EYFS to Year 6. For EYFS, David suggested a number of quick and easy ways to ‘drop’ history into pupil’s daily activities. For example, using different versions of Little Red Riding Hood/The Three Little Pigs to challenge ‘perspective’. He promoted the fantastic Hopscotch Histories series by reading the version linked to the Great Fire of London together and then challenging us to an image sequencing activity thereafter to recall the key points of this historical event. Providing opportunities to complete historical jigsaws is a good way of introducing important figures from the past. Rather than referring to 5th November as ‘Bonfire Night’, David emphasised that we should really be using this as a chance to discuss Guy Fawkes, looking at images conveying conspiracy and reenacting the events of this time with slightly older children. A set of laminated images of kings and queens of England can stimulate observation and speculation among children, whilst a number of pictures relating to different modes of transport were used to demonstrate classification/categorising. Family history can sometimes prove slightly difficult, so David suggested a different way of approaching this; six photographs of the Windsor family (some of which would be familiar to younger children) were handed out as a stimulus for discussion, targeting the learning outcomes of recognition, identification and sequencing. Next, we were given several images of women and asked to identify which facts related to each one. Afterwards, David prompted us to consider which one was/is the greatest woman and why to develop reasoning at the upper end of Key Stage 1. Just like I have my many themed boxes, David brought along his history suitcase. He suggested having a designated day each month when the history suitcase appears in school for the children to open and explore with their teachers. This has appeal to all primary aged children, not just those in EYFS or Key Stage 1. His advice was to visit charity shops regularly to seek out cheap artefacts, as well as asking colleagues to donate suitable items.
Following a short break, again with plentiful refreshments, we looked at putting these principles into practice at lower Key Stage 2. Here, David used the key question ‘How did the arrival of the Romans change Britain?’ and one ancillary question, ‘Why was it so important to Claudia Aelius that her friend Lepidina Cerialis came to visit her?’ to exemplify how to move pupils further down the ‘core spine’ and ensure progression in history. Not only are pupils encouraged to summarise and synthesise at this stage, but also explain and demonstrate understanding.
Lunch was held in the dining room. Over a delicious hot and cold buffet, delegates were able to chat further about their individual roles and schools. It was interesting to learn how different schools approach the planning of their curriculum and their current foci for development. We discussed relevant places of interest that we might take pupils to, in addition to recommending visitors/speakers and loan boxes that could be sourced. I hope to establish a humanities working party in early 2018, which will meet on a termly basis to share best practice, provide support to Subject Leaders, showcase new resources/web-links and raise awareness of forthcoming events.
After lunch, we embarked upon putting the principles into practice at upper Key Stage 2. Emphasis was placed on WW2 and the Battle of Britain. Not all schools choose to study WW2 it seems, but exploring the key question ‘Why was winning the Battle of Britain in 1940 so important?’ and the ancillary questions ‘What did Hitler need to achieve if an invasion was going to succeed?’ and ‘Why did Britain win the Battle of Britain?’ helped to illustrate the expected progression at this stage and learning outcomes that should be attained, such as empathise, reach informed conclusions, make reasoned judgements, justify, apply, evaluate, critique, hypothesise.
Unfortunately, I had to slip away just before the event came to a close. However, I promised David that I would write a blog post relating to the conference in lieu of completing an evaluation form in situ, which he was more than happy with.
An insightful, hugely worthwhile and enjoyable day. Thank you for inviting me, David. See you next year for the Regional Primary Geography Conference!