What Has to Be Taught in the History National Curriculum

Written by Dan

Understanding the requirements of the history national curriculum in England is crucial for anyone involved in the educational sector.

The national curriculum sets out what should be covered in history lessons from Key Stages 1 to 3, providing a structure for teaching and ensuring that all pupils have a coherent understanding of history.

The curriculum not only includes a chronological narrative of British history but also integrates themes and content from across the world, reflecting a broad and balanced perspective.

Through a well-designed history curriculum, pupils are expected to gain knowledge and understanding of Britain’s past and that of the wider world, which helps them to develop a sense of their own identity and the challenges of their time.

Teachers are guided by attainment targets and programmes of study that detail what children should be taught at each stage, ensuring the delivery of a curriculum that is both comprehensive and adaptable to different teaching methods.

This curriculum aims to spark pupils’ curiosity about the past, develop their understanding of historical concepts such as continuity, change, cause, and consequence, and form an appreciation for historical evidence.

Key Takeaways

Historical Foundations

The ‘Historical Foundations’ section details the essential aspects of the History National Curriculum, including the stages of historical education, legal obligations, and guiding principles behind curriculum design.

It focuses on shaping a coherent understanding of history from early years through to key historical benchmarks in secondary education.

National Curriculum Overview

The History National Curriculum in England provides a framework to develop a well-rounded history education. It sets out to give pupils a deep understanding of significant historical events, national and international, across various time periods.

Key Stages and Historical Progression

History education is segmented into Key Stages:

- Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2)
- Key Stage 2 (Years 3 to 6)
- Key Stage 3 (Years 7 to 9)

Each key stage builds upon the last, progressing through a chronological narrative from the earliest times to the present day. This structure ensures a cohesive development of historical knowledge and understanding.

Roles and Responsibilities

Teachers in both primary and secondary schools are responsible for delivering the curriculum. They must do so in line with statutory guidance, ensuring that the study of history is relevant and reflects a balance of national and local history.

Additionally, academies and local-authority-maintained schools may tailor the curriculum, provided they cover the mandatory programmes of study.

Legal and Statutory Framework

By law, history is a compulsory subject for pupils at each key stage until the end of year 9. The curriculum is underpinned by statutory requirements that specify both the content and attainment targets for history.

This ensures consistency and legal compliance in history education across England.

Curriculum Design Principles

When designing a history curriculum, schools follow principles that focus on a balance of chronological knowledge and the development of historical concepts such as cause and consequence, similarity and difference, and interpretations.

The curriculum should foster the skills to ask and address significant historical questions and to engage with historical evidence.

Conceptual Understanding and Skills

The national curriculum emphasises conceptual understanding and skills in history. From year 1 through year 9, students progressively develop an aptitude for critical thinking, evaluating evidence, and debating perspectives.

By year 10 and year 11, students should be able to engage with complex historical changes and develop substantiated explanations and judgments.

Content and Themes

The history national curriculum is designed to give students a broad and balanced understanding of the past, emphasising a chronological narrative, awareness of continuity and change, as well as diverse interpretations of events.

It ensures a solid grounding in not only British history but also incorporates essential elements of local and world history, helping to foster a deeper understanding and judgement of both past societies and the present day.

British Historical Narrative

The curriculum covers the British history extensively, building a chronological framework from the earliest times to the present. This includes significant periods and events, from the Stone Age to the Information Age, and the impact of pivotal historical figures and empires.

Students explore the continuity and change that has shaped the nation, enhancing their understanding of how historical events have influenced modern British society.

Local History Insights

Local history is an integral part of the curriculum that encourages students to explore the history of their locality, region, or community.

This local history study allows pupils to gain a sense of identity and heritage, connecting broad historical narratives to their own experiences and the area they live in. It supports them in understanding how local history contributes to and is part of the larger British historical narrative.

World History Contexts

In addition to a strong foundation in British history, the national curriculum significantly emphasises world history and Britain’s relationship with the wider world.

It aims to provide a wider international history perspective, encompassing major world civilisations, international conflicts, power shifts, and British empires’ global influence.

Historical Concepts and Processes

Core to the curriculum is the understanding of historical concepts such as cause and consequence, similarity and disparity, and the use of evidence in forming judgements.

These processes help students to grasp complex historical concepts and develop critical thinking, challenging them to form their own interpretations based on historical evidence.

Diverse Perspectives and Interpretations

Lastly, the teaching of history in the UK includes varied perspectives and interpretations of past events, promoting historical perspective and awareness.

The inclusion of different viewpoints encourages students not only to learn about history but also to engage with it, recognising that history can be seen differently depending on one’s vantage point. This aspect aims to develop an ability to understand and respect diverse historical interpretations and judgements.

Curriculum Implementation

Implementing the National Curriculum in history necessitates meticulous planning and robust delivery methods to meet the educational criteria set forth for key stages.

Teachers play a crucial role in executing the curriculum through evidence-based teaching methods and materials, with a focus on fostering historical understanding and critical thinking.

Teaching Methods and Materials

In history education, teachers utilise a variety of teaching methods to encourage active engagement with the subject. They employ sources ranging from primary documents to interactive digital media.

Effective teaching also involves identifying and using a range of materials that convey historical events as a coherent, chronological narrative, reinforcing the study plan for key stages 1 and 2.

Evaluating Historical Evidence

A central component of history education involves evaluating historical evidence which includes analysis and interpretation of source materials.

Teachers guide students through the process of scrutinising historical claims and contrasting arguments, ensuring that pupils can distinguish between fact and opinion and can make informed judgements based on evidence.

Assessment and Attainment

Assessment is integral in determining students’ progress and attainment within the history curriculum.

Criteria are clearly defined within the National Curriculum for history, setting targets that students must achieve at each key stage.

Teachers assess progress through both formative and summative evaluations, which inform their judgement on pupils’ understanding and application of historical concepts.

Integration with Other Subjects

History is often integrated with other subjects such as English, through the analysis of historical texts, or Geography, with an investigation into how historical events have shaped our world.

It can also connect with music through the study of historical periods, enhancing students’ comprehension of cultural and societal evolution over time. This interdisciplinary approach enriches the curriculum, allowing students to gain a multidimensional perspective.

Challenging Topics and Sensitive History

In addressing the history national curriculum, educators grapple with challenging topics and sensitive issues. They balance the need to provide factual information while fostering critical thinking and empathy among students.

Confronting Difficult Periods

Teachers often confront difficult periods such as the Holocaust and slavery, which raise complex questions of morality and human behaviour. National curriculum in England: history programmes of study specifies fostering historical perspective by linking local, regional, national, and international contexts.

Teaching Controversial Events

The curriculum also addresses the need to teach controversial events from diverse perspectives, encouraging students to scrutinise various interpretations of history.

Teaching Sensitive and Controversial History suggests approaching complex topics, such as colonialism, with an informed and sympathetic understanding.

Critical Thinking and Analysis

Guiding students through careful analysis of historical claims and evidence is essential. The curriculum endorses the development of judgement by weighing different types of historical accounts and learning to question prevailing narratives.

Developing Empathy and Understanding

Enhancing students’ empathy and awareness of historical events’ impacts on different groups is crucial for understanding past relationships and shaping future societal change.

The curriculum encourages reflection upon these impacts from multiple perspectives, fostering a comprehensive view of history’s complexity.

Future of History Education

The landscape of history education is poised for transformative progress. As educational policymakers and curriculum developers grapple with the challenges of nurturing curiosity in students, the focus is shifting towards a more diversified and inclusive representation of historical narratives.

  • Inclusivity and Diversity: The curriculum seeks to encompass a broader spectrum of human history, emphasising the achievements and follies across various civilisations.
  • Technology Integration: Digital resources and interactive methods are increasingly incorporated, supporting a dynamic classroom environment.
  • Skills Development: There’s an emphasis on critical thinking and source analysis, preparing students for a world where assessing information is crucial.

Change is inevitable in history education, with a movement towards a curriculum that not only addresses the traditional teaching of significant events but also enriches students’ understanding of complex global interconnections.

Challenges include ensuring that educators are equipped to deliver these updates effectively and that all students can access these enriched learning experiences.

Educational bodies continue to publish research and reviews to support history teachers in building “layers of knowledge”, which is essential for a comprehensive history education.

This includes a blend of factual learning with the development of analytical skills. The goal is to create a curriculum that is not static but evolves with the times, resonating with students and fostering a lifelong interest in history.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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