Well, it was rather nice to attend a conference today and be able to just sit back and listen, rather than having to present!
I have not been to an event like this at the University of Gloucestershire before. However, their flier suggested that we were in for a treat: ‘A one day course for primary teachers (KS1 and KS2), history subject leads, NQTs and anyone interested in raising attainment in history. With the forthcoming changes to the Ofsted Inspection Framework in mind, delegates will be introduced to ways of thinking about curriculum design and implementation that will help them maximise the impact they have on children’s learning within their unique settings.’
The day began with coffee and pastries (usually a good sign of things to come!) and the opportunity to reserve a place on various workshops. Unfortunately, some of the workshops that I had hoped to attend were already full. However, the alternatives still appeared to be relevant to my current freelance consultant’s role.
We gathered in the lecture theatre for an excellent keynote given by Kate Thomsen and Tracey Wire from the University of Gloucestershire, entitled ‘Intent, implementation and impact: History within the broad and balanced curriculum’. Both had listened to Heather Fearn, Inspector Curriculum and Development Lead at Ofsted, speak recently and relayed information confidently. Together, they:
- explored the content of the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF) (2019).
- identified the implications of the new framework for work in primary history.
- explored some characteristics of best practice in planning and teaching in primary history.
Kate and Tracey involved us in activities throughout their keynote and invited contributions from their audience, which ensured that we were kept fully engaged and interacted with each other. Their final messages were very clear:
- Do less better.
- Think about planning depth and outline studies more explicitly.
- Make sure your curriculum and your teaching is knowledge rich.
- Think carefully about the sequence of lessons within a unit of work.
- Plan units so that pupils build knowledge and understanding incrementally over time.
- Provide ‘enabling knowledge’ early in the unit that pupils ‘use and apply’ later in the unit.
- Maximise the IMPACT you have on pupils’ learning.
Next, it was time for the first workshop. I chose to hear what Rachael Herbert from Ashton Gate Primary School in Bristol had to say about ‘The role of the subject leader’. The school holds a Quality Mark for History: Gold Award. Rachel looked at how to implement a high quality history curriculum. Her agenda for the session included:
- Effective planning – at the whole school level and looking at individual units.
- Local dimension.
- Curriculum timetabling.
Implementation and Impact:
- Monitoring – work scrutiny.
- Assessment of history.
Elevating the status of history.
Rachel was very down to earth and approachable, which promoted some lively discussion among delegates. I also suggested some further web-links that teachers may find useful and local venues that they might wish to contact. Rachael concluded with the following points:
- I am lucky in that the management at our school have always valued history teaching.
- In bigger schools, it can be easier – it makes possible more specialism and support. I have very supportive colleagues who are happy to try out different schemes.
- It is very much ‘work in progress’ – each year, we are thinking about new units.
- The Historical Association’s Primary Quality Mark – gave us impetus for focusing on history. It involved a significant amount of work, but has left a legacy.
The second session of the day was led by Sarah Whitehouse from the University of the West of England (UWE), whom I know well from my input at primary and secondary geography conferences there, as well as work with their trainees. Sarah investigated ‘the relationship with significance and chronology’. A range of important events were explored through the life of a significant individual, with clear links being made to the National Curriculum (2013) at Key Stages 1 and 2. Sarah encouraged us to think about chronology and introduced us to Partington’s five criteria for historical significance. She discussed the ‘constructivist approach’, as well as developing chronology with children through memories. Sarah focused on vocabulary to describe the passing of time that we should ‘drip-feed’ to students. The session was very ‘hands on’ too; we participated in a ‘Who am I?’ activity as a whole group and then worked in pairs to place images on a timeline and events in chronological order, selecting the five most significant. Afterwards, Sarah asked us which skills we had needed to use and how we deduced the correct answer/s, in addition to encouraging us to justify our choice/s.
Rumbling tummies meant that it was time for lunch. A cold buffet was served in the atrium. Sitting in small groups around tables meant that we could chat informally with others. It was amazing the number of familiar faces that I saw; some Primary Humanities Network regulars, alongside representatives from schools that I have worked in/with in the past.
After lunch, I attended a session led by Catherine McHarg from Historic England, entitled ‘Enrich your pupils’ learning by ‘Enriching the List”. We discovered how pupils can become active citizens by adding their drawings, photographs or research of local listed buildings to the National Heritage List for England. Catherine had us moving around the room and chatting with each other at the start, before we sat down to hear her talk more about their ‘Enriching the List’ project, including how it fits in with Ofsted and the curriculum, builds in progression and chronology, what is ‘listed’ locally and the step by step process for teachers to add an entry with their pupils. This is certainly something that I should like to discuss further with John Putley, Hub Facilities Manager at the new Gloucestershire Heritage Hub (former Gloucestershire Archives); a quick, easy and cost-effective way of bringing local history to life and taking learning outside the classroom.
Lastly, I popped along to another workshop that Rachael Herbert was delivering, which looked at ‘Using archaeological evidence with lower KS2 pupils’. Rachael showcased work that had been completed within her school in conjunction with the theme ‘Ancient Egypt’; two enquiries extracted from broader schemes of work, namely:
- Enquiry 1: Looking at an ordinary Egyptian – ‘Ginger’.
- Enquiry 2: Looking at a pharaoh – Ramesses II.
Rachael did emphasise that these ideas were easily transferable to any area of study, however. Before taking us through each in turn, Rachael looked at ‘history as a discipline’ and how to run an enquiry. The session brought back very fond memories of a holiday to Egypt in 2005. Not only did we then manage to visit the Karnak Temple at Luxor during the day and night, take a felucca trip along the Nile as the sun was setting, witness Egyptians conducting archaeological digs at ancient sites, experience a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings and Queens and surrounding desert at sunrise, but also took an internal flight up to Giza to see the huge and impressive Sphinx and pyramids, including crawling on our hands and knees to explore the burial chambers inside. Towards the end, Rachael reinforced that the discipline of history should be ‘a clearly structured enquiry informed by knowledge’. We can do this with young children by ‘drip-feeding’ knowledge and sources to layer up their understanding within the framework of an enquiry question, in addition to putting children in the role of a historian/archaeologist. A body of knowledge enables children to have a deeper understanding of archaeological sources.
A very worthwhile way to spend a day … I shall certainly keep my eyes and ears open for news of further history/geography or primary-related events at the University of Gloucestershire.
Many thanks to all involved.