head of depatment: Ms Lynch
At St Bernard’s we endeavour to develop our students into the very best historians with the same passion we have for investigating the past. We want our students to acquire inquisitive minds while they learn about past societies and cultures and study historical events that have shaped the world we live in today. Their learning should also help them to understand and appreciate the wide diversity of human experience, developing their empathy and tolerance, which fully embraces our school ethos of ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ Being an all-girls school, we ensure that our curriculum considers topics that support our students’ understanding of how women’s lives have changed over time. Our Autumn 2 unit in Year 9, for instance, has a firm focus on women’s domestic lives during the Victorian period as well as the fight for female suffrage. Our GCSE unit on Elizabeth I was chosen to highlight the importance of a female monarch in a patriarchal world, and our A Level unit on the Witch craze was picked to emphasise much of the stereotypical ideas and discrimination that women faced in Britain, Europe and North America as women were far more likely to be accused of witchcraft than men. As a department we believe that the transferable skills gained in our subject are essential for life in the 21st century. Each lesson gives students the opportunity to enhance their historical skills such as evaluating interpretations, analysing sources, and developing an understanding of chronology. We also teach students the importance of challenging the provenance of information and processing copious amounts of information to create a coherent argument. We aim for students to know more and remember more, and this is the backbone of our curriculum delivery.
The content covered gives students the opportunity to explore issues at a local, national, and international level from 1000 to present day. This range of history offers the opportunity to explore different peoples’ perspectives on issues and events and to think critically about the world in which they live. The curriculum is sequenced to give students a broad understanding of the chronological development of British history, as well as being able to make links to other societies, cultures, and world events.
All students are taught the same curriculum, regardless of their special educational needs or disabilities, social disadvantage, or academic ability.
In 2019/20 we developed our KS3 SOW to ensure more consistency within lessons. PowerPoints and resources are provided on the VLE which both students and staff can access for use in lessons or homework. This SOW is being amended further in 2021/22 to ensure the lessons are set up for 100 minutes rather than the 60-minute lessons we had pre-pandemic. We implement our curriculum through a range of teaching approaches including the use of video clips, research using laptops, discussion, source analysis (including inference and usefulness), evaluating interpretations, role-play, knowledge carousels and written responses.
Our units taught in KS3 are taught via the main themes of State, Church and Society. These units of study are designed to ensure the National Curriculum is delivered in breadth and depth. Students are made aware of the links between units of work and are constantly encouraged to think back to previous work to draw upon knowledge they have already gained.
Essential historical skills of analysis and evaluation and application of knowledge are embedded throughout the KS3 curriculum.
History at KS4 follows the Edexcel course. Skills embedded at KS3 are now built on and developed at greater depth with students also strengthening their ability to recall prior learning and skills. Students are supported through intervention and targeted revision sessions. GCSEPod has been purchased for 2021/22 to ensure students impacted by the pandemic have further opportunities to improve their knowledge and understanding.
History at KS5 follows the Edexcel course. It is an ambitious and creative curriculum, allowing students to develop further their skills and to recall prior learning, but will also introduce our students to new content, new concepts, and new challenges. The theme of democracy is integral to the course, studying both Britain and the USA in the 20th century in Year 12, as well as the recurring theme of women in society through the Witch craze 1580-1750. Students also consider the causes of the Russian Revolution for their 3000–4000-word historical investigation. The History Department supports the students in becoming independent, lifelong learners, with a desire to fulfil their potential.
Throughout all key stages, the history curriculum plays a significant role in the development of literacy. Students are rigorously developing their writing skills through constant opportunities for extended writing. The study of historical sources and texts develops reading skills and students make inferences and judgements through exposure to a wide range of historical resources. In addition, there are opportunities to develop numeracy through analysing numerical historical data.
Cultural capital is also developed through extracurricular opportunities such as History club for KS3 students, trips, and opportunities to support the curriculum e.g., Whitechapel walking tour for KS4. Whole school assemblies and events have been organised by the History Department, such as an even in commemoration of the centenary of the end of WW1 in 2018. These events have been well-received by staff and students alike.
The History department comprises two full time specialist teachers and three part time specialist teachers. All are enthusiastic about History and keep up to date with current historical debates and discoveries. Staff are engaged in CPD to enhance their own knowledge of the curriculum across all three key stages. The Head of Department has worked as an examiner for Edexcel since 2009, marking the Germany exam papers. She has also been promoted to Team Leader. The knowledge gained through this experience is cascaded to the rest of the department through in-house CPD sessions and moderation tasks.
The quality of teaching and learning in History has been praised during learning walks by both external and internal observers. Examination results at GCSE are well above national average with 94% 9-4 grades, and in 2018, our results put us in the top 1% of the country for progress and in 2019, the top 2%. Our A Level results are above average with students achieving half a grade higher than national average. Many of our students go on to study at university, undertaking courses related to the subject, including History itself, Law, International Relations, Politics and Journalism.