Just what we all needed! Primary Humanities Network meeting (Term 5)


Since some individuals were unable to gain cover within school time due to the current restrictions, I decided to offer two meeting options; one immediately after school on Thursday 22nd April 2021 and another after lunch on Friday 30th April 2021.  Whilst this meant there were a smaller number at each meeting, it did allow for more whole group discussions and time in ‘break out rooms’ than usual.

Recent discussions in the News, at conferences, during webinars and within social media feeds, somewhat influenced the theme of Term 5’s virtual Primary Humanities Network meeting; after the usual educational round-up, e.g. developments; new websites and FREE resources, we contemplated the following question; How can the humanities contribute to the ‘recovery curriculum’ in place in schools?’.

After welcoming everyone, I outlined the aims and structure of the meeting, namely:

Our ‘starter’ looked at some of the latest developments in education, especially those relating to geography and history, such as:

I then relayed the latest news from the leading subject associations, namely the Geographical Association (GA) (https://www.geography.org.uk/), Royal Geographical Society with IBG (RGS-IBG) (https://www.rgs.org/) and Historical Association (HA) (https://www.history.org.uk/).

The GA’s Annual Conference took the theme of ‘compassionate geographies’ and kicked off with a fantastic public lecture by Anjana Khatwa about the Jurassic Coast, sharing her experiences and knowledge of this UNESCO world heritage site to captivate and entertain.  You can listen to her talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mok_sTlta24.  Demonstrating that geography matters, this stretch of coastline hit the headlines just a day or so later as the cliffs collapsed, creating the largest UK rockfall for 60 years (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/15/jurassic-coast-cliff-collapses-in-biggest-uk-rockfall-for-60-years).

At the GA’s Annual Conference, Debbie Watson of Cumbria Development Education Centre promoted a project called ‘Hidden Stories’ (http://www.hidden-stories.co.uk/oral-histories/) and inspired us to consider how to capture and stimulate learning using the wealth and diversity of knowledge that our community holds about places, change and the movement of people.  The project uses sound clips from interviews with a wide range of people who have migrated to the area, exploring and contrasting life in different locations, as well as the motivators that push or pull us from one place to another.  The Everyday Guide to Primary Geography: Story (https://www.geography.org.uk/Shop/Key-stage/Key-stage-2/The-Everyday-Guide-to-Primary-Geography-Story/9781843773290) is well worth purchasing as it provides many ideas of how to use story to develop geographical knowledge, understanding and skills.

At the same event, Amy Moore and Helen Robinson proposed two statements and asked delegates to think about which was true and which was false: ‘Ponies can eat holly leaves‘ and ‘In Victorian times, as a punishment, children had to hold a holly leaf in their closed mouths’.  This stimulated thought, discussion and reasoning in terms of plausibility.  This activity could easily be repeated with any leaf or other natural object, where the pupils work individually or in pairs to create two statements about their object, drawing on their knowledge of its place in the world.  The activity helps connect pupils with elements of their physical environment and allows them to get creative in imagining an alternate narrative for their object.

Later this term, the primary CPD pack ‘Progression in fieldwork experiences’ will be available to buy  (https://www.geography.org.uk/ebooks).  This is designed to help teachers/Subject Leaders tackle fieldwork progression in their school through a range of practical activities that are flexible to suit their needs.  The digital pack contains an overview document with guidance on activities for 15 minutes, one hour or half a day and a link to a downloadable resource folder containing stimulus material, activity instructions and resources, progression framework and CPD certificate.

Change is a key geographical concept and, over the last year, we have all experienced changes to the way that we live our daily lives.  Do have a read of Newsround’s report on ‘Schools, shops and cafes: What’s changing today around the UK?’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/56714697).  At one level, the restrictions have limited our interactions with the space around us, outlawing unnecessary travel and foreign holidays, but, on a local level, many people have explored and taken notice of their immediate environment like never before.  Many pupils will need support to safely unravel their thoughts and emotional responses to the past year.  Anne Dolan and Joe Usher use the context of Covid-19 to explore a range of practical geographical tasks in the spring issue of Primary Geography journal; ‘Where in the world is Covid-19?’ (https://www.geography.org.uk/Journals/Primary-Geography).

GeogPod, the GA’s Podcast, is now on its fifth series (https://www.geography.org.uk/GeogPod-The-GAs-Podcast).  Episode 31, may be particular useful to SLT and Geography Subject Leaders.  Here, John Lyon talks to Iain Freeland, Her Majesty’s Inspector and National Lead for Geography, about ‘Understanding Ofsted and what makes good geography’.

For anyone wanting a quick, easy and cost-effective means of enhancing their subject knowledge, then look no further than the GA’s In the Know webinar series (https://www.geography.org.uk/events/in-the-know-webinar-series/10598?OccId=15777).  Due to the success of the first webinar series and further interest, this will be repeated each Thursday, from 4.00 pm to 5.00 pm, throughout May and early June.  Do join us if you can.

The RGS-IBG are offering some FREE CPD too; ‘Using the My2050 Carbon Calculator and accompanying resources‘ (https://www.rgs.org/events/summer-2021/using-the-my2050-carbon-calculator-and-accompanyin/).  Their ‘Discovering the Weddell Sea – Education for Antarctic Conservation’ resources recently won a Highly Commended Award at the Geographical Association Publishers’ Awards.  In partnership with the Flotilla Foundation, the Society is proud to have created five educational interactives, a poster and a digital Antarctic collectors album to mark the accomplishment of ‘a pioneering Antarctica expedition into the depths of the frozen Weddell Sea’ (https://www.rgs.org/schools/teaching-resources/discovering-the-weddell-sea-education-for-antarc/).  They are also a partner of the ‘Stay home stories’ research project, which aims to understand how ideas and experiences of home have changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Society is involved with the ‘mapping home’ strand of the project, which is encouraging children aged between 7 and 16 years to take part in a nationwide mapping exercise illustrating how they understand and articulate home following lockdown.  Do register your school’s interest (https://www.stayhomestories.co.uk/).

Key Stage 2 pupils should be encouraged to enter the ‘Young Geographer of the Year 2021’ competition (https://livinggeography.blogspot.com/2021/04/young-geographer-of-year-competition.html?spref=tw).  The theme this year is ‘Remapping our lives’, with young people being asked to create an annotated map that reveals how their lives have been shaped by the Covid pandemic.

Digimap for School’s website has had a makeover recently (http://digimapforschools.edina.ac.uk/).  Do explore their ‘Learning Resources’ as there are plenty of ideas for use at primary level, in addition to a bank of twelve, fantastic resources entitled ‘Locational Knowledge’.  For anyone unfamiliar with Digimap for Schools, then why not access the recording of the ‘Digimap for Schools for Primary Geography’ CPD session from last May (https://www.rgs.org/schools/teaching-resources/?categories=GIS,Keystage1,Keystage2)?

Geography southwest is a resource hub for students and teachers (https://www.geographysouthwest.co.uk/).  It has a section dedicated to ‘Primary’, which is regularly updated (https://www.geographysouthwest.co.uk/primary/).  Perhaps, try and get into the habit of visiting its ‘Primary News’ page every fortnight, so that you keep up-to-date with educational developments, freebies, competitions, opportunities, CPD offerings, etc.?

To support our History Subject Leaders in attendance, I shared the latest news from the HA.  They have updated their ‘Roman Britain’ scheme of work, which addresses the National Curriculum programme of study for history’s requirements and pursues three lines of enquiry  (https://www.history.org.uk/primary/resource/9227).  I attended the webinar led by Glenn Carter and Kerry Somers in March, which looked at ‘Dealing with the issues from lockdown in the primary history classroom’.  Some of the key messages from this were discussed later in our meeting.  However, I provided the web-link to the webinar recording in case delegates wished to explore this pertinent theme more fully (https://www.history.org.uk/primary/resource/10047/film-dealing-with-the-issues-from-lockdown-in-the).  The HA are also running a ‘What’s the wisdom on …’ film series, targeted at secondary school teachers, but some of the content is transferrable to the primary setting.  The eighth episode focuses on ‘historical significance’, which may be of particular interest and relevance to History Subject Leaders.  Following Census 2021 in March, the HA reminds us what a rich historical source the census is in the classroom and beyond.  For historians, using the census can shine a light on particular people and places.  Big stories can be told through a sharp local lens. Change and continuity over time can also be traced (https://www.history.org.uk/primary/resource/10038/census-2021-using-the-census-in-the-history-class).

I also highlighted a couple of funding opportunities for teachers in East Anglia and Kent and Medway schools.  Firstly, Norfolk history teacher, Barrie Greaves, passed away in 2019 and left a legacy to provide funded bursaries for a small number of primary schools in East Anglia to complete the Quality Mark ( https://www.history.org.uk/primary/categories/quality-mark).  Secondly, teachers of history in Kent and Medway schools (primary and secondary) are invited to apply for the 2021-22 Ian Coulson Bursary for Local History/Archaeology in Schools.  A grant of up to £1000 is available to help teachers develop new teaching resources for local history and/or archaeology. The closing date for applications is 30th June 2021 (https://www.history.org.uk/primary/news/3927/ian-coulson-annual-bursary-for-local-historyarcha).

The HA has a number of primary CPD opportunities over the next couple of months, some of which are FREE to members, whilst others incur a small fee (https://www.history.org.uk/primary/categories/789/news/3902/your-primary-cpd-calendar-summer-2021).  Their Annual Conference is ‘going virtual’ again this year and has a mixture of live and recorded sessions delivered by top historians and educators (https://www.history.org.uk/primary/news/3919/ha-conference-2021-goes-virtual).  I drew attention to the news from the Education Team at the HA too, including reference to the impact of remote learning, diversity and the curriculum, events and webinars, resources and Quality Mark and competitions.  May is ‘Local History Month’, providing a great opportunity to take learning outside the classroom.  I projected a double page spread from the Spring 2021 edition of HA News, which outlined a number of ways in which we can all support Local History Month.

I felt it important to give participants some time to digest what I had shared with them, so fifteen minutes were allocated to independent exploration.  Teachers were also invited to ask any questions that they had, add comments to the chat feed or raise their hand if they wished to discuss anything in more depth.

The ‘main’ part of our meeting began with a ‘break out room’ activity.

I visited each room in turn to listen to the conversations and pose a couple of questions.  I was impressed by their interaction and contributions.  On their return to the meeting, participants were asked to add one ‘tip’ to the chat feed that others should consider.

Injecting a little positivity seemed to be needed, so I referenced an article published on Teach Early Years’ website, which highlighted ‘Five positives that Early Years settings should take from the pandemic‘ (https://www.teachearlyyears.com/learning-and-development/view/5-positives-early-years-settings-can-take-from-the-pandemic).

I referred to the 2021 white paper: ‘The impact of school closures on autumn 2020 attainment’ (https://www.risingstars-uk.com/rs-assessment/whitepapers), a post on Rising Stars’ blog about ‘Pupil well-being and the pupil voice in the return to school’ (https://www.risingstars-uk.com/blog/february-2021/pupil-wellbeing-and-the-pupil-voice-in-the-return), a case study from The Victorious Academies Trust (https://www.risingstars-uk.com/blog/march-2021-(1)/moving-forward-at-the-victorious-academies-trust), Eduu School’s blog post referring to the findings of The All Party Parliamentary Group on Education Technology (APPG)’s ‘Lessons from Lockdown’ report (https://www.risingstars-uk.com/blog/march-2021-(1)/%E2%80%98lessons-from-lockdown%E2%80%99-highlights-gains-from-eduu), essential reading relating to ‘the recovery curriculum’ as suggested by Thinking Matters (https://www.thinkingmatters.com/news/the-recovery-curriculum-essential-reading-listening), Evidence for Learning’s ‘Think Piece’ about a ‘recovery curriculum’ (https://www.evidenceforlearning.net/recoverycurriculum/ and https://www.evidenceforlearning.net/recoverycurriculum/#mentalhealth), Cornerstones Education’s detailed article about what a recovery curriculum is and how primary schools can implement it (https://cornerstoneseducation.co.uk/news/what-is-a-recovery-curriculum-and-how-can-primary-schools-implement-it) and Independent Thinking’s creative curriculum webinar (https://www.independentthinking.co.uk/resources/).

I was fortunate to be able to attend a webinar run by Glenn Carter and Kerry Somers on behalf of the HA recently entitled ‘Dealing with issues from lockdown (thoughts from a primary history perspective)’.  I shared their key messages with participants, as well as a document from Hampshire LA that was created to help History Subject Leaders identify topics and key skills missed during Lockdown.

Next, I highlighted a number of articles, resources and websites offering ways of addressing some of the issues arising from Lockdown.  These included:

In order to give participants some time to digest what I had showcased and bookmark/register/download various resources, we paused for fifteen minutes or so.  In the meantime, I answered any questions that delegates had, as well as responding to comments typed in the chat feed.

The plenary activity was incorporated to encourage a degree of reflection:

Finally, I asked individuals to sum up the meeting in five words or a sentence or two and provide some ideas for themes for future meetings.  Their ‘concluding comments’ can be viewed here:

‘Signposting; progression; diversity; virtual field trips.’
‘Lots of wider reading to complete!’
‘Useful; informative; resources; virtual trips.’
‘Thank you.  Virtual trips; resources; helpful; freebies!’
‘In depth; discussion; informative; resources; supportive.’
‘Useful; up-to-date; informative; lots to read and take on board!’
Really useful; lots to explore!  Stress levels reduced – thank you!’
Thank you – very useful today!’
‘Fascinating; informative; engaging; excellent; worthwhile.’

‘Thank you so much for the session today.  So helpful.’
‘So many great resources and ideas.’
‘Useful resources to go back and look at.’
‘Some great recommendations of books we can use in the classroom.’
‘Lots of brilliant websites and books which will link well to topics.’
‘Thorough, thought provoking, enriching; a calm end to the week with lots to ponder for the bank holiday weekend!’
‘So good to have some time to talk to others and look at all the good ideas.’
‘Rich in relevant resources; always informative; supportive to Subject Leaders and inspiring to all.’
‘So much to think about and get our teeth into.  Can’t wait to start.  (Already emailed KS1 & EYFS & you haven’t even finished yet!)’
‘Thank you for another great meeting.’
‘Thanks so much, Emma, this was fab!’

  • Knowledge retention for the next session!
  • Teaching and learning strategies like retrieval practice.
  • Assessment opportunities.
  • Exemplars for history and geography.
  • Quick quiz to begin sessions – sticky learning.
  • Fieldwork.
  • Skills progression.
  • The role of the Subject Leader.

I will endeavour to include as many of their suggestions as possible within our next virtual Primary Humanities Network meeting (from 1.00 pm to 3.00 pm on Friday 18th June 2021).  Further details will be published here and also sent to contacts during mid-May.

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